PHILADELPHIA — Democrat Joe Sestak and Republican Pat Toomey are striving to show who is more extreme and out of step with voters in the first debate in Pennsylvania's closely contested race for U.S. Senate.
Sestak and Toomey were squaring off Wednesday at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia in an hourlong debate.
Sestak accused Toomey of pressing the case for corporations to the detriment of the working class. Toomey shot back that Sestak's support of Obama administration priorities is damaging the nation's economy.
The debate unfolds the same day a new poll showed Sestak closing the gap on Toomey's slight lead.
The men are vying to succeed five-term Sen. Arlen Specter, who was ousted in the primary.
Toomey is a former businessman and one-time congressman. Sestak is a retired Navy admiral and second-term congressman.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak has apparently erased the lead held by Republican Pat Toomey in the race to replace Sen. Arlen Specter, according to a new poll released hours before the candidates participated in their first face-to-face debate.
The Muhlenberg College/Allentown Morning Call poll out Wednesday showed the candidates about even, with Sestak supported by 44 percent of likely voters and Toomey favored by 41 percent. Fifteen percent remain undecided less than two weeks before the Nov. 2 election.
The results included voters who are leaning toward a candidate but haven't entirely made up their minds. The telephone poll of 403 voters who said they are likely to vote in the election was conducted during the four days ending Tuesday. The sampling error margin was plus or minus 5 percentage points.
Two Muhlenberg polls taken between Sept. 18 and Oct. 4 showed Toomey with a slight lead — 46 percent to 39 percent. Other polls also have shown Toomey with a slight advantage.
Toomey, a former congressman from Allentown, and Sestak, who represents a suburban Philadelphia district in the U.S. House, are vying to succeed Specter, whom Sestak beat in the May primary.
The candidates were to square off in their first debate Wednesday night at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
On Tuesday, Toomey picked up the endorsement of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Palin listed Toomey and a half-dozen other Senate contenders as candidates deserving support. Palin says they all would hold the line against proposed "cap and trade" restrictions on air emissions that she said pose a threat to jobs in industrial states.
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