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PoliticsPA: Live from Toomey HQ — Toomey victorious

Scroll down to the bottom of this post for the most recent updates. Or take a look at live coverage from Joe Sestak’s post-election event at the Radnor Hotel in Radnor, PA.

By Alex Irwin

PoliticsPA Contributer

As polls close in Pennsylvania, the mood at the Toomey headquarters is calm as people continue to file into the Holiday Inn just outside Allentown, awaiting the U.S. Republican Senate candidates official arrival.

The Toomey campaign has reason for reserved confidence. The former Lehigh Valley congressman has held a lead over Democratic candidate Joe Sestak in the polls for almost the entire race, except for a short burst of Sestak enthusiasm in late October. And ever-dubious exit polling numbers released by Muhlenberg College and showed Toomey leading Sestak 51 percent to 47 percent as of 10 a.m.

Sestak and his fellow Democrats may have felt cautiously optimistic following mixed reports of higher-than-expected voter turnout — a requirement for the Dems if they want to win this race and countless others across the state and the country. Unfortunately for Democrats, it seems turnout in Philadelphia and other Democratic strongholds, is not as strong.

Polls have closed in several states in the eastern U.S. Toomey says he’s shooting for a 10 p.m. victory speech.

UPDATE: Nachama Soloveichik, communications director for the Toomey campaign said now that the race is finally over, it’s time to wait.

“Waiting is the hardest part. I feel good. Obviously there’s a lot of anticipation, but we’re cautiously optimistic. We think we’re going to win,” Soloveichik said.

She added turnout numbers released today haven’t the campaign’s expectations.

“We haven’t seen anything crazy going on — no huge spikes in the Philly area. We’ve heard some positive things about traditionally Republican areas like Bucks County. We haven’t seen anything t make us think that everything we’ve seen leading up to this point is going to change tonight.”

UPDATE: Polling results have started to trickle in, notably in Philadelphia County. Sestak currently leads according to the heavily skewed numbers 68.2 percent to Toomey’s 31.8%. The campaign just officially addressed the crowd for the first time, welcoming everyone to the “Toomey victory celebration.” They thanked everyone for their support of a “true conservative” and encouraged people to get a drink and have a good time. Fox News is on a projector screen to the right of the stage.

UPDATE: Classic rock continues to blast through the speakers here in Allentown, rather than the audio from the election returns being shown (like at the Sestak event). But the Toomey camp just announced ABC has called the PA governor race for Republican Tom Corbett. The crowd let out a brief but enthusiastic cheer for the Attorney General’s victory. But Toomey’s people say there aren’t enough numbers to provide any updates on the Senate race. “You have all the information we have.”

UPDATE: Still no official address from the campaign on polling results, but the room is quickly filling up with supporters, eyes glued to the election results on the big screen. Fox just declared a victory for Democrat Barney Frank in Massachusetts, which was met with boos from spectators. Mark Rubio’s victory in Florida, on the other hand, was met with cheers. Michael and Pat Kummer of Pocono Pines, Monroe County, are two Toomey supporters who came out to the event tonight to show their support after voting for the GOP hopeful earlier today.

“We met Pat at a rally up near our hometown and we’ve been following his campaign closely,” Michael said. “We just really like what he has to say and I think he’s not a typical politician. I think we’re going to have a good voice in Washington.”

Michael said he likes what Toomey stands for, but also said his vote was a vote against Sestak, Obama and Clinton. They said they plan to stay until Toomey speaks, regardless of whether he wins or loses.

“We’re sort of caught up in the moment and we’d like to share in the celebration,” Michael said.

“We’d like a really big victory — not even close,” Pat added.

UPDATE: The campaign just reported that nowhere in Philadelphia did turnout exceed 30%, and they did better in Allegheny County than they were expecting. But they still said it’s a “close race.”

UPDATE: With 61 percent reporting, the NYT has Sestak up 52.9 percent to 47.1 percent. It doesn’t seem to be hurting the mood here — now screens on either side of the stage are showing Fox News’ coverage and the crowds around them continue to grow larger and larger.

UPDATE: Fox News just reported Sestak up 52 percent to 48 percent — according to a guy standing on a cheer calling out notable results, anyway.

UPDATE: Rick Santorum’s appearance on the screen draws cheers from the crowd. Still almost no results from Chester County. With 78 percent of Philly votes tallied, Sestak leads in the city by nearly 210,000 votes.

UPDATE: Fox News audio now being piped through the room — Palin talking reps who voted for healthcare bill. With 81 percent of votes tallied, Sestak leads 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent. Nearly all of Philadelphia and Allegheny Counties votes are counted. Campaign’s calling the race “as close as it could possibly be” and asking folks to settle in.

UPDATE: Charlie Dent’s victory speech now on the big screens. Lots of applause from the crowd here.

UPDATE: With 90 percent reporting, NYT has Toomey pulling ahead with 50.2 percent of the vote. Growing enthusiasm here with the crowd erupting every time the PA Senate race rolls around on the ticker.

UPDATE: The Toomey campaign just announced Toomey’s up by 22,000 votes with 93 percent reporting. A supporter just passed by and said into her phone “We won!”

UPDATE: Sestak’s picked up slightly more than 335,000 votes so far in the four counties surrounding Philadelphia. PoliticsPA’s John McDonald, reporting from the Sestak HQ, points out that Rendell and Casey averaged well over 560,000 votes in Bucks, Chester, Montgomery and Delaware Counties in ’02 and ’06. Corbett speech on the tube.

UPDATE: Toomey campaign says they’re up 55,000 with 3 percent of precincts still to report. “Hopefully in a couple of minutes we’ll be up here hooting and hollering.” It’s hard to tell if people here are anxious — or exhausted. Case in point:

UPDATE: Murmurs in the crowd that the AP has called it for Toomey. Campaign says they expect to be able to deliver good news in a few minutes and ask supporters to keep their signs below the cameras and have a “damn good time.”

UPDATE: The crowd has certainly thinned a bit, but the Toomey camp just reported AP and NPR have called it. Said Toomey will address the crowd in a few minutes. Here’s the scene:

UPDATE: Word is Sestak has called Toomey. Expecting Toomey downstairs any minute.

UPDATE: Toomey just wrapped up his victory speech and supporters are filing out of the Presidential Ballroom at the Holiday Inn clutching their Toomey signs and sporting “I was there!” buttons. In his speech, Toomey thanked his family and campaign team. He also expressed gratitude to the 72,000 individuals who donated to the campaign and the volunteers who went door to door and made fundraising calls.

“I told you we needed all that effort,” he said smiling.

He offered to extend his hand to President Barack Obama and work with PA Democratic Senator Bob Casey to boost job creation and stimulate the economy through fewer taxes and less government spending — the main talking points of his entire campaign.

“We’re going to chart a new course,” Toomey said.

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