Barnes said he was in favor curbing frivolous lawsuits by awarding legal fees to parties that are the subject of such lawsuits. He also accused Deal of opposing embryonic stem cell research, citing his past votes against it as a member of Congress.

"I don't oppose embryonic stem cell research," Deal said. "What I oppose is creating life for the purpose of taking that life for research purposes."

Deal said he supports the use of "cord blood" and other methods to achieve the same end result that are "scientifically appropriate as well as morally appropriate." He also sought to link Barnes to the Democrats' recent overhaul of the health insurance industry.

Barnes said Medicaid reimbursement rates in the state are too low to attract qualified candidates. He said if he was a physician he isn't sure he would accept Medicaid because of the low pay.