Republican Linda McMahon and Democrat Dick Blumenthal sounded a common theme during the Connecticut Senate race's first debate Monday night: My opponent has serious character flaws, and I'm not like those Democrats in Washington.
Blumenthal didn't trot out any new policy positions Monday night, but the Connecticut Democrat's performance was nevertheless a striking example of how toxic the national political environment has become for Democrats. Blumenthal said that he would have voted against both the stimulus and TARP--a somewhat implausible claim coming from an establishment Democrat. He said he supports the death penalty, which the state legislature has voted to abolish. And his tepid defense of Obamacare (a "good start") left The New Republic's Bradford Plumer less than impressed.
Obamacare "did not cut Medicare," said Blumenthal, "it cut Medicare Special Advantage, which in no way cut guaranteed benefits that seniors." (He didn't note that the law also tasks the unelected Independent Medicare Advisory Board with cutting "the per capita rate of growth in Medicare spending.")
On foreign policy, though Blumenthal said we must stick to Obama's July 2011 deadline to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, he threw out some pretty hawkish lines. "We must continue the war on terror," said Blumenthal. "We need to take that war to wherever the terrorists make safe havens, whether it is in Pakistan or other countries." So much for the state's Ned Lamont Democrats who believe the "war on terror" is nothing but a bumper sticker slogan.
Speaking of Ned Lamont, the very liberal 2006 Democratic Senate nominee said he thought the debate was a "draw"--proof positive that McMahon actually won, right?
McMahon, a former World Wrestling Entertainment executive, definitely stood her ground against the attorney general, as she claimed that "government does not create jobs" and pledged to repeal Obamacare. But she had trouble naming anything besides the stimulus that she would cut to save money and was hammered pretty hard by Blumenthal for claiming that, while "holding my nose," she would have voted for TARP.
As for the character issues, Blumenthal repeated his defense that he simply misspoke when he falsely claimed (on multiple occasions) that he served in Vietnam. Blumenthal attacked McMahon for WWE's treatment of its employees, and noted there is an ongoing investigation of the company for allegedly not providing its employees with health insurance they deserved.
McMahon hinted there may have been some connection between her campaign against the attorney general and the investigation. Blumenthal shot back that the investigaiton is outside of his jurisdiction. McMahon replied: “I have no comment.”
(Watch a clip of the debate here.)