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In Pa. Senate race, it's the Dem red carpet for Sestak

Senate candidate Rep. Joe Sestak’s (D-PA) is doing everything he can to close the polling gap between him and his opponent Pat Toomey. In this effort, Sestak is rolling out the red carpet for Democratic Party celebrities. Yesterday's celebrity: former President Bill Clinton.

(Clinton will be in West Virginia tomorrow for Senate candidate Joe Manchin. A Democratic source tells First Read they are feeling very good about West Virginia now.)

Later in the week, the party’s biggest celebrity, President Barack Obama will rally the base.

Over the course of three college (Bryn Mawr College, Cheyney University and Temple University) events today, Clinton attempted to convince student crowds that their only choice was Sestak.

By the end of the day, Clinton’s message was overshadowed by talk of him trying to convince Florida Senate candidate Rep. Kendrick Meek to drop out of his race and throw his support behind Independent candidate Gov. Charlie Crist. Answering a question thrown to him on the ropeline at the end of the Temple event, Clinton seemed to admonish reporters for trying to turn the focus away from Pennsylvania and towards the internal politics of the Florida senate race.

Earlier in the day, Clinton had strong words for the GOP, “The Republican candidates have done an absolutely brilliant job of making this the most fact free, bait and switch election in my lifetime.”

Talking specifically to the student audience at Bryn Mawr, he said, “I presume you’re interested enough to vote or you wouldn’t be interested enough to come here.”

He continued, “The 25-and-under vote will be 55% lower than it was. All these young people who voted for the first time for the president were excited. Many of them never voted in the midterm election before. Don’t understand everything they voted for two years ago can be put at risk by staying at home in this election.”

He went on to talk about the importance of the health-care bill. Though he did say that while “repeal” was a bad idea, making changes to it are necessary. He tailored his speech to focus on the student-loan provisions that were part of that bill.

“The leaders of the other party have said that when they get done repealing Wall Street reform, they’re going to repeal this [student-loan reform]," Clinton said, "because the government has socialized student loan process. That’s not what happened. Those guys want their $60 billion back, and they don’t care if America drops to 20th or 25th or 30th in the percentage of people with college degrees.”

The crowd at Bryn Mawr might not help Sestak out all that much. Talking to students gathered before the event, many of them were not registered to vote in Pennsylvania, choosing to vote from their home states and had shown up to hear the former president.

Sestak, in his short introduction of Clinton, made another effort to lump Toomey in with Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell and the original "Mama Grizzly" herself, Sarah Palin.

"There is a choice between policies that are so extreme that if, if that Christine O’Donnell, Congressman Toomey, Sarah Palin, who we’ve called a spectacular governor were to get in," Sestak said, "my gosh, another eight years, four years, two years not even one day of that is something we can take.”

Toomey pushed back on this characterization earlier in the week: “This is sort of a fictitious connection that Joe Sestak is trying to encourage.”