Congressman Chris Murphy and wrestling magnate Linda McMahon continued their increasingly ugly battle for Connecticut’s open Senate seat on Thursday with their fourth debate, this time in Hartford with moderator Steve Kotchko of Connecticut Public Broadcasting.
Taking questions from a panel of reporters, Kotchko kicked off the debate by asking the candidates how they’d protect Social Security and Medicare while keeping costs down.
McMahon first acknowledged that she hasn’t talked about specifics because they get “demagogued” and inhibit fruitful reform discussion. She repeated the Romney campaign talking point that says Obamacare–a policy Murphy voted for–“robbed” $716 billion from Medicare. “I will not support any budget that will reduce the benefits our seniors have today,” she said.
Murphy responded that he doesn’t believe Social Security and Medicare are “games to be played with,” which is why he has fought Republican plans to voucherize them–plans he said McMahon supports. He also said Obamacare money has created stronger benefits for seniors, and jabbed McMahon for allegedly avoiding talking about specifics for fear they’ll be demagogued. “That may be another way of saying she’s going to lose votes,” he said.
So, right off the bat, Thursday’s debate became mostly more of the same for anyone following this Senate race. However, both candidates put forth strong, collected performances and there were a few highlights.
For example, McMahon and Murphy, both pro-choice, agreed that life begins at birth. McMahon said women are more concerned with jobs and the economy than abortion, but she “will do nothing that will negatively impact the [health and choices] of those close to [her],” meaning her daughters and granddaughters.
Murphy, whose wife heads one of Connecticut’s leading pro-choice organizations, hit back that people have come to him and said they’re voting for McMahon because they believe she’ll help empower a Supreme Court justice who will overturn Roe v. Wade. “You can’t say you’re pro-choice and then support [legislation like] the Blunt Amendment,” he said. The Blunt Amendment, reports Mother Jones, ”would allow employers to opt out of providing any benefits mandated by Health and Human Services as long as they have a ‘moral objection’ to doing so.”
After a time-keeping malfunction, one of Murphy’s responses was cut short by a minute. He asked for the minute back, but joked, “I don’t want to mimic Mitt Romney in complaining about debate rules.”
And finally, in light of the vicious ads, personal attacks, and generally acidic tone of the campaigns, Kotchko asked each candidate to say something nice about their opponent.
“Linda McMahon is clearly a very driven person,” Murphy began. “When she sets her mind to something, she can accomplish it.” He acknowledged that McMahon has put money and resources into various Connecticut charities, and said he knows voters hate it when campaign bickering follows lawmakers to Washington and impedes them from getting any bipartisan work done.
McMahon conceded, “The nicest thing about Congressman Murphy are his two little boys. They are so cute.” She complimented Murphy on “having such a nice family,” and said she knows he wants his boys’ futures to be bright. McMahon said that’s why she’s running–for his boys and her grandchildren, to ensure they have the same opportunities she’s enjoyed.
According to the Real Clear Politics poll average, Murphy held a three point lead going into the debate.