THE NEXT SENATOR FROM PENNSYLVANIA?…. Before his humiliating defeat in 2006, Rick Santorum (R) was elected to the Senate in Pennsylvania — twice. With that in mind, it’s hardly inconceivable that former Rep. Pat Toomey, the Republican Senate nominee this year, can get elected.

But just how far to the right is Toomey? Harry Enton published an item recently that evaluated the former lawmaker’s ideology, using the independent DW-Nominate scores, which score members of Congress based on their roll-call votes.

Enton found that Toomey is much more conservative than even Santorum.

Using joint House and Senate scaling (which treat the House and Senate a single body to compare scores across chambers), we find that Pat Toomey (.718) had a considerably more conservative voting record than Rick Santorum (.349). To put that number into context, Lincoln Chafee (the ultimate liberal Republican and now independent) had a DW-Nominate score of .002 and Republican Arlen Specter had a score of .067. Republican Specter was slightly to the right of Chafee; Santorum was considerably right of Chafee; and, Toomey was much further right.

Still, I wanted to get a better idea of how conservative Toomey voting record was. So, I pulled the DW-Nominate score of every United States legislator (House and Senate) since 1995…. Toomey ranked more conservative than 97.9% of all United States legislators since 1995. He had a more conservative voting record than J.D Hayworth, Jim DeMint, and was about as conservative as Jesse Helms. Only Tom Coburn and Tom Tancredo scored further to the right.

To put it into prospective, Pat Toomey would most likely be the second most conservative Republican in the United States Senate.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, of course, but given that Barack Obama won by double digits in Pennsylvania just two years ago, it’ll be tough for Toomey to convince voters in the Keystone State that his very conservative background is in line with the state’s mainstream.

Can “Pennsylvania’s Jesse Helms” win? Toomey starts off as something of an underdog, and will have to hope voters don’t pay too close attention to his beliefs and/or policy agenda.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.