By Cameron Joseph - 10/09/12 01:32 AM EDT
Former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) and former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) traded sharp barbs in their latest debate Monday night in Richmond, showing signs of frustration and irritation with each other after more than a year of a closely fought campaign.
The two normally sunny politicians attacked each other as fiscally irresponsible, with Allen accusing Kaine of abandoning the state during an economic crisis to chair the Democratic National Committee.
Kaine fired back, accusing Allen of not knowing “basics of how to work together” across the aisle, pointing out that Allen had also headed a political committee when he chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and quoting Allen’s 1994 remark that he enjoyed knocking Democrats’ “soft teeth down their whiny throats.”
Both candidates hewed closely to scripts they’ve followed for more than a year of running for the Virginia Senate seat, and were clearly frustrated time and again by the way each characterized the other’s record and views. Polls had shown the two running neck-and-neck since the beginning of the campaign, though Kaine has pulled ahead of Allen in the past few public polls.
One of the few things they did agree on: That the moderator wasn’t following the debate format they’d both agreed to, and was depriving them of rebuttals they were promised. Both candidates repeatedly began to respond heatedly to the other's accusations before being frustrated by silent microphones.
Neither scored a clear knockout blow in a debate that is unlikely to change many voters’ minds. Kaine once again knocked Allen for increasing spending during his time as governor and ballooning the federal deficit while in the Senate, saying he “broke both sides of the balance sheet” while in Congress by cutting taxes and raising spending without paying for either. Allen blasted Kaine for raising higher education costs in the state and supporting Democrats’ health insurance reform law, which he repeatedly promised to repeal.
Kaine attacked Allen for voting to privatize Social Security while he was a senator, and Allen fired back by saying the health insurance law Kaine backed raided Medicare — though was careful to not embrace Paul Ryan’s plan to partly voucherize Medicare, which he has avoided saying if he'd vote for or not.
The two also fought over the looming sequestration cuts to military and other spending. Kaine laid out his plan to end the Bush-era tax cuts for families earning $500,000, ending subsidies to large oil companies and allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices, saying that would leave just a quarter of the cuts left to be made.
Allen said the bipartisan debt ceiling compromise was “sloughing off responsibilities to yet another commission” and that to avoid the looming cuts to the military, which studies show could cost Virginia 200,000 jobs, Congress should “repeal Obamacare,” cut some overlapping government programs (he didn’t name which), increase energy production and simplify the tax code, which he said would jump-start the economy.
The two will meet for one more debate before the election.
This post was updated at 10:20 p.m.