McCaskill, Akin trade jabs in final debate

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Sen. Claire McCaskill and rival Todd Akin faced off in their second and final debate Thursday evening in Clayton, Mo.

Missouri News Horizon
CLAYTON, Mo. — U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill was on the offensive Thursday night during her final debate with her Republican rival, Todd Akin.

At Clayton High School, less than three weeks from election day, McCaskill took issue with dozens of Akin’s previous votes – some of which dealing with raising his own pay, others dealing with opposing federal funds for school lunches – all as she attempts to define Akin to Missouri voters as too “extreme.”

“Moderate verses extreme,” McCaskill said, “I think there’s a very big choice for Missourians to make.”

Akin, known during the primary (and even in his prior debate with McCaskill) for delving into the details of a policy question, focused instead on a handful of points in an attempt to tie McCaskill directly to government spending and President Obama, largely unpopular among Missouri voters.

“I believe she’s supported $6.9 trillion worth of deficit spending, and she calls herself a moderate,” Akin said. “How much do you have to spend in deficit spending to become a liberal?”

To counter, McCaskill said she would support parts of the Simpson-Bowles plan to reduce the national deficit, and touted her efforts working with Republicans — a key pillar of her campaign message — on opposing earmarks and supporting a cap on federal spending.

“I’m willing to look at pieces of Simpson-Bowles,” she said. “We’re going to get there through good, moderate, bipartisan work.”

McCaskill, who, following Akin’s inflammatory comments about “legitimate rape”, has focused increasingly on women’s issues in her campaign, also touted her campaign’s research claiming Akin’s official office pays women 23 percent less than his male staff.

After the debate, reporters asked Akin’s senior campaign adviser Rick Tyler about the issue. He said reporters should ask the official office spokesman for comment, but that spokesman, who was standing off to the side, immediately left when Tyler ended his discussion with reporters.

Akin, who spoke last during closing statements, took that opportunity to criticize McCaskill for her husband’s business dealings with companies that dealt with $39 million in federal housing subsidies. McCaskill, speaking with reporters, downplayed his assertion as a “cheap shot.”

The two faced off in a debate earlier this year in Columbia during a forum hosted by the Missouri Press Association. That time, the two operated in a different political environment in which Akin still had the opportunity to exit the race, which much of his party had asked him to do. This time, McCaskill’s jabs were sharper, and Akin, who answered much more cautiously, acted under the advice of new campaign consultants his campaign has hired in recent weeks.

Following their debate, Akin and McCaskill are back on the campaign trail in southwest Missouri this weekend.