Incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill and Republican challenger Todd Akin squared off in their final debate of the campaign last night. Those hoping for a slugfest were probably disappointed.
In fact, Akin’s previous “legitimate rape” comment largely went ignored, and the two candidates didn’t cover much new ground.
They mostly stuck to the talking points they’ve used on the campaign trail – McCaskill portrayed herself as a moderate.
“I’m not worried about upsetting my party," she said, in front of hundreds of potential voters at Clayton High School. "I’ve had time-out in my caucus, especially when I’m going after earmarks.”
And Akin dismissed McCaskill’s claim that she’s a moderate.
“She talks about how she’s a moderate. How much do you have to spend in deficit spending to become a liberal?” Akin asked.
At the debate, which was broadcast by KSDK and St. Louis Public Radio, the two candidates had disagreements on almost all the issues. And their energy policies were no exception.
The federal Wind Production Tax Credit has been in place for 20 years. Some groups estimate that up to 2 thousand Missouri jobs are supported by the subsidy. Congress will decide the fate of the tax credit soon, as it is set to expire at the end of this year.
"In terms of wind, I'm happy for it to compete with solar cells, coal, oil, gas, nuclear and let these sources of energy work on their own," Akin said.
"Congressman Akin and I have a disagreement here," McCaskill said. "He doesn't believe we should be encouraging through subsidies or credits any kind of alternative energy. But he's perfectly willing to protect big oil subsidies at the expense of the tax payer."
After the debate, Akin clarified his stance on oil subsidies.
"Now if we're not going to have that break (oil subsidy) we're just going to reduce the overall corporate tax rate, which is fine by me," Akin said in a brief interview with St. Louis Public Radio after the debate.
McCaskill also attacked Akin’s opposition to federally backed student loans.
“I don’t know many private banks that loan money to a 17-year-old that has no money,” she said, bringing up his comments that referred to federally backed student loans as the 'stage 3 cancer of socialism.'
But Akin defended his stance.
“Claire seems to think we have to have the federal government do everything. A year or two ago we had student loans from private institutions,” Akin said.
Although most of the debate was cordial, Akin used his closing statements to take a shot at McCaskill.
“She transferred $39 million to her business," Akin said. "And there’s no record of transparency.”
Akin is referring to the Associated Press investigation that found businesses associated with McCaskill’s husband received $39 million in federal subsidies. But the AP found no evidence that McCaskill steered money to those firms and McCaskill says no money made it into the family’s personal accounts.
McCaskill called it a cheap shot since she didn’t have time to rebut.
“It’s not his style," McCaskill said immediately following the debate. "I’m surprised he did it. It’s not true, the AP reported there was no evidence to support the accusation.”
Recent campaign financial reports show McCaskill outraising Akin by almost $4 million since mid-July.
As per debate rules, McCaskill spoke to reporters after the event. But Akin did not show up, choosing instead to send an advisor in his place. He did, however, speak to KSDK and St. Louis Public Radio immediately following the debate.
The Libertarian candidate, Jonathan Dine, was not invited to the debate. However, Dine agreed to an interview with St. Louis Public Radio where he would answer the same questions. You can listen to that exchange here.
Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter: @csmcdaniel
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