- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 26, 2010

PHILADELPHIA | Democrat Joe Sestak’s cheeky TV ad about dog poop has tails and tongues wagging in the fiercely contested Senate race in Pennsylvania.

In the ad, Rep. Sestak compares cleaning up after his family dog, Belle, to cleaning up the economic mess that he says his GOP rival, Pat Toomey, and former President George W. Bush played a big part in creating.

“My family loves Belle, but she can make a mess,” Mr. Sestak, a two-term congressman, says in the ad, which ran for more than a week.

There’s a shot of Mr. Sestak gingerly depositing a bag of dog doo in a trash barrel.

“It made me sick to bail out the banks, but I had to clean up the mess left by these guys,” Mr. Sestak adds, with a photo of Mr. Toomey and Mr. Bush behind him.

Mr. Toomey, who himself once served in the House and holds a slight lead in the polls, complained this week that Mr. Sestak is using the ad to duck responsibility for his votes in support of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout and President Obama’s $814 billion economic-stimulus package.

“The fact is, Joe Sestak deserves more than his fair share of the blame for this, and nobody but Joe Sestak is responsible for his votes,” Mr. Toomey said. “I just don’t think people are going to be fooled by that.”

Every election appears to feature at least one memorable ad that manages to break through the heavy clutter of campaign attack commercials that flood the airwaves. Pennsylvania Democrats are hoping Mr. Sestak’s dog ad can propel him to the Senate.

Donald Bradbury, 43, an independent from the Philadelphia suburb of Media who is leaning toward voting for Mr. Toomey, said he snickered when he first saw the ad. But he’d prefer it if candidates ignored gimmicks and stuck to the issues.

“No one cares about his dog,” said Mr. Bradbury, a computer technician.

Mary Walker, 66, a Democrat from the suburban community of Secane and a retired energy company administrator, said while she’s sick of all the political ads on TV, she enjoyed Mr. Sestak’s dog spot.

“That hit home because we’ve been cleaning up after the Republicans,” she said.

The Campaign Group, the political firm that worked on the “Belle” ad with Mr. Sestak, also helped produce an ad that played a big role in propelling Mr. Sestak, an admiral in the U.S. Navy before running for Congress, past longtime Sen. Arlen Specter in the May Democratic primary.

Mr. Specter suffered from the perception among Democratic voters that he was a Republican at heart and switched his party registration last year only for personal political gain. The ad struck home by quoting Mr. Specter in an apparent boast that his party switch “will enable me to be re-elected.”

Mr. Sestak said late Monday that his dog ad was effective because it was simple and unique.

“It really broke through for us,” he said, adding that the ad has been popular online as well.

The Democrat said his campaign’s next ad will be more conventional, featuring the candidate speaking directly to the camera about accountability.

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