The last debate: the aftermath

10/25/2010 09:37 PM

For those who tuned into the KET debate expecting fist fights or shouting between Republican Rand Paul and Democrat Jack Conway, they didn’t get it.

For those who tuned in looking for some new positions or witty one-liners or memorable lines of any sort, well, they were probably disappointed to.

What Kentuckians did get was two candidates soberly disagreeing about policies, such as the pros and cons of the stimulus bill and health care reform law.

Conway and Paul both looked and sounded much more senatorial than they did eight days ago at one of the most bizarre debates for any office higher than 5th grade class president.

There was no talk of “Aqua Buddha.” Instead, Paul got back to talking a lot about President Barack Obama. And Conway took digs at Paul over his statements supporting a proposal to replace the income tax with a 23% national sales tax and potentially raising what future retirees have to pay for Medicare coverage. For the play-by-play, feel free to go back to our cn|2 Politics live blogging of the debate from the press room at KET’s studios in Lexington.

Overall, the two candidates acquitted themselves well after the week of “Aqua Buddha” knocked the race off of its axis. The only knock against Paul and Conway is that they both ducked facing the media after the debate, opting instead to slip out side and back doors.

A lot of ink will be spilled on breaking down what was said between the two, so I’ll keep this analysis short.

The biggest missed opportunity was that the two never really engaged each other over the long-term ways to address the two big-ticket domestic programs that have been draining tax resources: Medicare and Social Security. Instead, there was a fair amount of dodging.

Paul was correct in defending his statements about a “$2,000 deductible” for future seniors by saying that he was trying to suggest a way to keep that program sustainable. Conway clearly disagreed but instead of explaining what he would want to do, he continued to demagogue the issue saying that seniors couldn’t afford that. Well, the issue isn’t about current retirees.

But Paul tried to deny supporting the so-called “Fair tax” plan, which would replace the federal income tax with a 23% national sales tax. However, he clearly voices his support for that on several occasions, including this one to Terry Schmidt, who calls himself “Fair Tax Terry” earlier this year. The relevant part is about a minute in:

Among the other highlights of their positions outlined in the debate:

  • Conway said he took the “libertarian” approach to abortion, saying that he favored it remaining legal as long as it was safe.
  • Paul said the stimulus bill, among other changes pushed by the Obama administration, made the economy worse by freaking out businesses who are now clutching their money instead of investing.
  • Paul reiterated that the government shouldn’t use taxpayers to bail out individuals or entities who made economic missteps, whether its banks or individuals whose homes were being foreclosed on.
  • Conway defended financial reform and said the government should do its part to keep people in their homes.
  • Both candidates offered insightful answers about the difficulty in post-war reconstruction in Afghanistan and said the country must have a sober debate about it.

As for the rest, it’s mostly positions and differences the candidates have highlighted before.

Check out tomorrow’s edition of Pure Politics for the final word on this final debate.

- Ryan Alessi and Kenny Colston


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