KEYSTONE KRAZY…. Following up on that last item, it’s easy to overlook the effect the shifting Republican “mainstream” has when it comes to labeling partisan “extremists.” The same GOP officials and candidates who appeared ridiculous, say, 20 years ago, are now very much in the middle of their party. It’s not because they mellowed, it’s because they stayed the same while their party kept going to the right.

Josh Marshall noted this in passing overnight, but I think it’s important: “The best thing ever to happen to Pat Toomey and Marco Rubio (especially Toomey) is the crop of completely whacky Tea Party nominees in maybe a half dozen Senate races across the country. Back under the old normal, Pat Toomey was a pretty out there guy. Club for Growth politics, a staunch advocate of phasing out Social Security. He seemed close to unelectable in Pennsylvania. But up against Angle, Miller, O’Donnell, he’s like Bob Dole.”

Agreed. Reader D.K. recently sent me an item from Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Karen Heller, who came across Pat Toomey’s book, “The Road to Prosperity: How to Grow Our Economy and Revive the American Dream,” which was just published a couple of years ago. Heller learned quite a bit about the ideology of the frontrunner in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race.

Every story, even an economic treatise, requires a villain. For Toomey, that’s Franklin Roosevelt and his “role in prolonging the Depression.” Toomey believes Roosevelt hated the rich. He was rich!

“While people saw the new jobs created by the government,” he writes of FDR’s efforts to end the Depression, “they did not see the corresponding jobs whose creation was prevented by the allocation of funds away from the private sector.”

Right, because companies had so much excess capital for employment when everyone was on a buying spree.

It goes on from there, with Heller noting Toomey’s belief that everything will be fine if we just implement a flat tax, and deregulate the credit and mortgage industries. She concludes that Toomey “appears tame” because he avoids the “moral superiority and angry theatrics of other staunch conservatives,” but tells readers, “Don’t be fooled. Reading Road to Prosperity … there’s nothing moderate about him.”

And really, relying on Toomey’s book is just scratching the surface, and doesn’t even get to his controversial Wall Street past, or the fact that he compares moderate Republicans to communists.

One recent statistical analysis of Toomey’s voting record found that, if elected, he’d be much more conservative than Pennsylvanian Rick Santorum, and his votes make him “more conservative than 97.9% of all United States legislators since 1995.”

In a more traditional year, Toomey’s extremism would be the center of considerable attention, and the political world would marvel at the notion of a state that backed Obama over McCain by double digits would, two years later, elect a hyper-conservative U.S. senator who blames FDR for the Great Depression.

But given the madness of 2010, Toomey seems almost normal, at least for the 21st-century Republican Party, compared to the likes of Angle, Paul, O’Donnell, Buck, and Miller.

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.