There was a bit of the griping about not coordinating his efforts with the statewide Democratic Party -- as we've reported before -- but the key piece was how Sestak didn't perform well in parts of Western Pennsylvania where social issues are crucial:
Geographically speaking, the Sestak campaign focused its efforts on the increasingly liberal southeast and Philadelphia, and that also may have kept the race close.
But Sestak might have missed an opportunity to win votes in western Pennsylvania, where neither he nor Toomey — a former congressman from the Allentown area — had much name recognition.
Democrats in the western region historically are more willing than, say, those in Philadelphia to vote for the candidate, rather than the party, said Jerry Shuster, who teaches political communication at the University of Pittsburgh.
Ticket-splitting was evident. In at least a couple of Democratic-leaning counties in western Pennsylvania that Sestak lost — Beaver and Cambria — voters cast more votes for Democratic U.S. House candidates than their Republican foes.
Another problem for Sestak may have been his winning strategy in the primary: He ran to the left of the moderate Republican-turned-Democrat Specter on a range of hot-button issues, including abortion rights, gun rights and his support for President Barack Obama.
Those positions allowed Toomey and conservative groups to paint Sestak as an ultraliberal in a region where Democrats are conservative, analysts said.
Sestak tried to win over conservative Democrats with his long military service, but seemed unable to overcome his positions on guns and abortion, said Christopher Nicholas, a Harrisburg-based political campaign consultant who managed Specter’s last two campaigns, in 2010 and 2004.
“The Republican Party’s tried-and-true strategy,” he said, “is to try to peel off right-of-center Democrats and independents in western Pennsylvania, especially on those two issues.”
The West proved to be the difference, as Sestak garnered nearly identical numbers in Philly (in proportion and number of votes) to Sen. Bob Casey in '06 and performed well in the suburban "collar counties." But the pro-life Casey did much better in the West to win by 18 points against Sen. Rick Santorum.
And to think, some idiots were saying before the votes were tallied that it would be all about Philly.