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Blumenthal-McMahon Debate: Health-Care Reform,Taxes, Minimum Wage

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Connecticut's two Senate candidates went to the mat Monday, squaring off over jobs, the minimum wage, taxes, health care and attack ads.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal grappled with Republican Linda McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, in their first debate of the season. The two are running for the seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, and the race is considered key to GOP hopes of regaining a majority in the Senate. In a generally civil debate with few surprises, the two took questions from local media, citizens, moderator Bret Baier of Fox News and from each other.

The candidates bristled when the discussion turned to recent attack ads and McMahon's business. Last weekend, Blumenthal ran an ad accusing WWE of taking tax incentives while cutting 10 percent of its work force. She countered that WWE will add between 100 and 140 jobs next year.

The same ad said McMahon favored cutting the minimum wage, an allegation she repeatedly denied.

"I would never advocate lowering or reducing the minimum wage," she said. "I said we should look at whether we need to increase the minimum wage. We need to always look at it and make sure it's in the right economic frame."

McMahon ran an ad earlier in the day attacking Blumenthal for misleading statements he'd made about serving in Vietnam, concluding: "If he lied about Vietnam, what else is he lying about?" The New York Times reported the ad was intended to "personally shake up Mr. Blumenthal."

When asked about his service record -- Blumenthal received draft deferments, then joined the Marine Corps Reserve, avoiding the war -- he expressed remorse.

"I'm proud of my military service," he said. "On a few occasions out of hundreds, I described it inaccurately. I take full credit for it. It was inaccurate."

Here's a look at some of the other issues covered in the debate:

The 2008 bailout and the 2009 stimulus: McMahon said the stimulus didn't work in creating jobs or getting money to the private sector. She said any money still remaining in the stimulus pot should be used to pay down the federal deficit. On the bailouts, she said, "I would have done it holding my nose. I would not have supported the bailouts for GM for the other car companies." Blumenthal said he would have preferred better accountability for stimulus spending and that he opposed the bailout because it benefited Wall Street instead of Main Street.

Two federal programs they'd cut: Blumenthal said he'd end tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas and breaks for drug companies. McMahon didn't name specific programs, but said non-discretionary federal spending should be rolled back to 2008 levels.

Ability to work across the aisle: Blumenthal cited his cooperation with other attorneys general in fighting Big Tobacco and working for Internet safety, and said he would have sided with some Republicans against the bank bailout. McMahon said she'd worked with opposing interests as a CEO, negotiating tough deals on behalf of WWE.

Buying American: Blumenthal asked McMahon why WWE buys products made in China, Pakistan and other companies. McMahon replied: "We do not have the kinds of policies in place here that are conducive to manufacturing. We can lower our corporate tax rate. We have the highest corporate tax rate in the world . . . We have high labor costs, high energy costs. All of these things are what are contributing to driving prices up in our country." Blumenthal shot back: "The bottom line was (it was) benefiting more profits (for WWE) by sending those jobs overseas . . . As the CEO of WWE, Linda McMahon has to be held accountable."

On jobs: McMahon noted: "I'm very proud of the fact that I've created more than 600 jobs here in Connecticut." Then she asked Blumenthal, "How do you create a job?" Blumenthal replied: "We can and we should create more of them through creative policies. I have stood up for jobs when they've been at stake," noting auto dealers and others he'd helped as attorney general. "I know about how government can help preserve jobs, and I want programs that provide more capital for small businesses," he said. McMahon countered: "Government, government, government. Government does not create jobs. Entrepreneurs create jobs." Said Blumenthal: "I'm not going to be an entrepreneur as a senator. I will do my best to assist entrepreneurs in exactly the way I just described."

Health care reform: McMahon advocated repealing legislation enacted earlier this year and didn't address whether she supports any part of the health-care reform effort. She said health-care costs would be reduced by tort reform, by allowing insurance policies to be sold across state lines and by allowing small businesses to create pools to buy insurance. Blumenthal said he supports the reform efforts, and would like to see government go further in reining in premiums.

The Tea Party: McMahon said she welcomed the group's support on issues such as cutting taxes, reducing the size of government and slicing the deficit. "I've also met with the Tea Party, two or three factions of the Tea Party," she said. "We are in lock step on those particular issues." Blumenthal said he welcomed political involvement from the Tea Party. "We all benefit when people from whatever view commit their time and their energy and their passion."

Campaign funding: Blumenthal noted his campaign will be outspent by McMahon. "We need those volunteers because I don't have anywhere near the $50 million my opponent has committed to spend. My campaign may be outspent, but it won't be outworked." Replied McMahon: "I'm funding my campaign with money that I've earned . . . I'm not accepting private interests (money) because I want to have an independent voice when I go to Washington. I know the people of Connecticut can't be bought."

The candidates agreed on a few issues: both support the death penalty, the war on terror (though they articulated different ideas about Afghanistan) and, well, both like crispy crust on their pizza.

But give McMahon points for the best one-liner of the evening, responding to Blumenthal's continued pounding about WWE's overseas purchasing, layoffs and an investigation into the company's employment of its wrestlers.

"I won't let you count my money and I won't talk about the fact that your family owns the Empire State Building," said McMahon. Blumenthal's wife's family's real estate holdings include the famous landmark.

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40 Comments

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msxdrummer

correction: In my earlier post I meant to say, CEO's do NOT create jobs, they create profits.

October 07 2010 at 4:40 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
carleronn

WWE's corporate offices are in Stamford. The parking lot is full and the cars are not driven by a half-naked girls with dog collars....it's a thriving business!!! What has Blumie done other than cause businesses to exit Ct???

October 06 2010 at 12:14 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
ttdq

Can anyone tell me exactly how many jobs has Blumenthal created. It appears that he has drawn from the government his entire life. Government does not create jobs only private enterprise does. When I lived in New England a lot of New Englanders turned out for the shows put on by McMahon and she made a lot of money. Blumenthal just took what the government offered.

October 06 2010 at 12:09 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
keach1

Can anyone tell me exactly what kind of jobs McMahon created? Is hiring half naked girls to walk on stage with a dog collar on the kind of jobs she created? WWE is an example of such poor taste that to even consider putting such a CEO in a position of influence in Washington is truly sick. This is someone who has proven to put herself and her money ahead of any public good.

October 05 2010 at 8:16 PM Report abuse -8 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to keach1's comment
success612

She's created 600 jobs no matter how you look at it. I thought this was the land of opportunity?

October 11 2010 at 1:53 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
kfoley7777

I love it when some millionaire CEO claims that he or she knows how to create jobs. What most of them really know is how to lay workers off.

October 05 2010 at 2:12 PM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to kfoley7777's comment
Realtors

and how many jobs have BHO created?

October 05 2010 at 6:01 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Imageryvt

Maybe it is just me but I find it odd that Ms McMahon says that she is spending 50 million of her own money so that she can be independent when she goes to Washington. As she put it "the people of Connecticut can't be bought" Isn't she buying them?????

October 05 2010 at 11:27 AM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Imageryvt's comment
Stan

How much money is Blumenthal spending and what is the source? Is it like congress using other peoples money to get what you want and then take credit for it!!!!

October 05 2010 at 6:26 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
ctjodi

Under that theory, then Mr. Blumenthal is also buying votes by taking PAC money and protecting special interests. Ms. McMahon has spent about $25 million so far on her campaign to get her name out there; it's not like she gets all the free publicity that Blumey has gotten over the years threatening to sue (and suing) BOTH the big guys AND the little guys. And it's her money financing the campaign. At least it's not our taxpayer dollars (a la Dan Malloy). SIX million of our taxpayer dollars, approved by the democratically-controlled CT legislature prior to the August primary... vetoed by Governor Rell... and only AFTER the primary when they knew their good buddy Dan was going to ask for financial help did that same legislature scurry back to Hartford to vote to override Governor Rell's veto! By the way, that SIX million in taxpayer dollars is in addition to all the PAC contributions he's received! So...Who's buying whom????

October 06 2010 at 12:08 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
cherofnc

WWE is a legitimate business. End of story. If her successful business is the only itsy bitsy item the great war hero can come up with, he will lose. Another end of story. Why must they pick on all this & not just move onto the issues & economy ....Stupid!

October 05 2010 at 10:42 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
Karl Petry

Millions upon millions are spent on campaigns for both parties. It's a big game and the public is always the loser. Bottom line, the rich want tax cuts to put more money in their pockets and the middle class want jobs to keep their homes and the poor get the crumbs left behind. McMahon is a multi-millionare and so is Blumenthal, both have no clue of what it's like "not to have" BIG money. So, they play the election game, probably because they're bored counting their stacks of money and lie promising everything under the sun to the voting public just to "win the game." When all is said and done, everything remains the same for the people, but to McMahon or Blumenthal whoever wins, will be the center of attention at the next cocktail party. Isn't that what it's all about?

October 05 2010 at 10:16 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Karl Petry's comment
ctjodi

No, that's NOT what it's all about.

October 06 2010 at 12:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
truthforfreedom

It's simple, Bloomenthal is old hat, at least McMahon will add something new to the DC scene. This will be an interesting election because of the blatent lie Bloomenthal told, how can anyone truly believe in him? These people should represent the best, most honest qualities and I don't see it in this man. I just don't. How his ratings are over McMahon's is beyond me. What is wrong with the people there? Do they have no scruples?

October 05 2010 at 10:12 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
JOHN

As a Vietnam veteran who served in the Marines I'm discusted with blumenthals statement that he served in Vietnam. He's a piece of garbage and should be dumped.If he lied about Vietnam he probably lies about everything. He's an insult to the human race...........

October 05 2010 at 10:12 AM Report abuse +13 rate up rate down Reply

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