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Joe Sestak distances himself from Democrats in close Senate race

The biggest problems for Rep. Joe Sestak, a Pennsylvania Democrat running for US Senate, might be that he is a Democrat and a member of Congress, analysts say. National polls show Americans turning against both, and Sestak's race is local proof.

By Staff writer / September 7, 2010

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (l.) and Rep. Joe Sestak (D) of Pennsylvania take questions during a news conference in Philadelphia Tuesday, Aug. 17.

Matt Rourke/AP

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Pittsburgh

Senate hopeful Rep. Joe Sestak (D) of Pennsylvania today backed President Obama’s call on Labor Day for $50 billion in new stimulus spending to create infrastructure jobs – and, anticipating the president’s speech in Cleveland on Thursday, another $200 billion in research-and-development tax credits for business.

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But in a campaign seasons where the polls are running hard against incumbent Democrats, Congressman Sestak says he wishes his party’s focus on jobs had come about 18 months earlier – and not just because the polls have gone south.

“Why now? We’re doing it for the polls, we should be doing it because it’s the right thing to do,” he said in a speech on the economy at Carnegie Mellon University.

IN PICTURES: Pennsylvania Senate race

After an upset victory over five-term incumbent Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary, Sestak, a former three-star admiral, faces high headwinds in his race against former Rep. Pat Toomey (R), and his greatest opponents could be his connection to Congress and his own party affiliation.

For much of the race, Sestak has been distancing himself from national Democrats, especially on economic issues. While President Obama and House Democrats national Democrats pound away on Republicans as the obstructionist party of “no,” Sestak says that Democrats “lost a moment” early in the Obama administration when both sides of the aisle could have gotten together on a plan to help small businesses – not just those businesses deemed too big-to fail – weather a steep economic downturn.

He’s proposing a 15 percent payroll tax credit for small business – “the engine of job growth” – to help start hiring again, an increase in $50,000 microloans to small businesses, and federal guarantees for community banks small business loans to get credit flowing again.

“I’ve been advocating the same set of proposals for more than a year and now members of my party are coming around,” he said.

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