TOOMEY HAS BIG PLANS FOR SOCIAL SECURITY…. For all the talk about the various radical candidates seeking statewide office this year — Angle, Paul, Johnson, Maes, Emmer — it’s easy to overlook former Rep. Pat Toomey, the Republican Senate nominee in Pennsylvania this year.

One recent analysis found that Toomey, based on his voting record, is “considerably” more conservative than Rick Santorum was during his tenure, and had a record more ideologically in tune with notorious North Carolinian Jesse Helms.

To help drive the point home, consider his approach to Social Security, an issue we’re apparently not supposed to talk about, and which GOP leaders like to suggest they won’t privatize. Toomey was asked yesterday at the Pennsylvania Press Club whether he stands by the privatization scheme he’s long favored. “I’ve never said I favor privatizing Social Security,” he replied.

A dramatic flip-flop? No, the issue here is that Toomey just prefers to define “privatization” in a way that doesn’t make sense. He doesn’t support privatization, Toomey just wants workers to take their money out of the Social Security system, and invest it on their own in private accounts — subject to swings on Wall Street — which will support them during their retirement. Toomey even wrote a book with a chapter called, “Transforming Social Security.” The first subhead reads, “Personal Accounts Lead to Personal Prosperity.”

Some dare call this “privatization”? Imagine that.

Pat Garofalo explained:

[M]ake no mistake, Toomey absolutely favors privatizing a portion of the program, as he makes painfully clear through his advocating that young workers “own” an account. Such privatized accounts would have experienced sharp negative returns in the market turmoil of 2008.

As Josh Dorner noted, a recent CNN poll “found that 59 percent oppose privatizing Social Security and Medicare.” 46 percent of voters said such a plan would make them “very uncomfortable” and a further 21 percent had reservations about it. Toomey tries to dress this up by not calling it privatization, but his formula is the same one that was roundly rejected when President Bush tried it in 2005.

Toomey may not feel comfortable with the description of his privatization scheme, but that doesn’t change what it is.

Just as an aside, I also noticed that Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine was in Philadelphia earlier this month, throwing her support to Toomey and helping the right-wing candidate raise money. This struck me as a little bizarre — when Toomey led the Club for Growth, one of his main tasks was destroying moderate Republicans like Collins. In 2009, Toomey even named Collins a “Comrade of the Month” for having supported economic recovery efforts.

For that matter, Collins claims that she wants to see a more moderate Republican Party, with more GOP lawmakers willing to work on bipartisan policy solutions. If she believes that, why on earth would she be in Pennsylvania, going out of her way to support Toomey, an unabashedly far-right ideologue?

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.