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Sparks fly at Minnesota debate

Sparks flew for the entire hour of the Minnesota U.S. Senate debate between Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and his challenger, businessman Mike McFadden.
Mike McFadden, Al Franken
Democratic Sen. Al Franken, left, and his Republican challenger Mike McFadden talk after their debate, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014, in Duluth, Minn. (AP Photo...

Sparks flew for the entire hour of the Minnesota U.S. Senate debate between Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and his challenger, businessman Mike McFadden where the combative Republican blamed Franken for the partisan environment in Washington, calling Franken “the Ted Cruz of the Democratic Party.” 

McFadden labeled Franken the “most partisan Senator in the U.S. Senate in the Democratic Party,” who votes with President Obama 97% of the time. Using a familiar GOP strategy to link Franken to Obama, McFadden repeated the number so often that at one point Franken used his comedic skill to deflect. 

“What was that number again?” Franken asked. “Let me write that down or I’ll forget it.”

McFadden was relentless in painting Franken as a creature of Washington who hasn’t healed the gridlock in Congress but who perpetuates it by being part of the problem.

“He’s gone to Washington and he’s been Washingtonized,” said McFadden about Franken. “He’s part of the problem, not the solution.” 

During one exchange when McFadden accused Franken of spending too much time in Washington and not holding enough town halls in Minnesota, McFadden said that President Obama has held more town halls than Franken.

“I’ve held over 1300 public appearances around the state,” Franken responded. “And I hold a Minnesota breakfast every week in Washington that your son even came to.”

But Franken also defended his record of working across party lines to find common solutions by underscoring legislation he worked on with Republican Senators Lamar Alexander, Pat Roberts, David Vitter and former Senator Richard Lugar.

"In an era where there’s a lot of gridlock, I’ve worked across the lines,” Franken said.

The two men differed on issues such as the Keystone Pipeline, energy, education and healthcare. While acknowledging problems with the roll out of the Affordable Care Act, Franken said Minnesota is now second in the country when it comes to the number of people who are insured. 

“You have a choice between me and Mr. McFadden,” Franken said. “If they repeal this then we’ll go back to square one and all of it will go away.”

But McFadden said “Obamacare” is a policy based on lies calling it a train wreck and blaming its poor implementation on Franken. 

“Al Franken was the 60th vote for Obamacare,” he said. “We wouldn’t have this disaster but for Al Franken.”

On foreign policy, McFadden credited Franken for supporting the President on arming the moderate Syrian rebels but criticized President Obama and by extension Franken, for not arming them sooner. Franken shot back and mocked McFadden for not taking a position on Syria last year when he had the chance. 

“Every candidate was asked about what to do and Mr. McFadden blinked,” Franken said. “It’s easy to score political points from the bleachers but this is a serious job and you have to make real choices in real time.”

Franken and McFadden will meet two more times before Election Day at the end of October and early November. A Minnesota Star Tribune and Mason-Dixon poll from September 10th had Franken leading McFadden by thirteen points.