'You can't trust the other guy' is the theme of 2nd Senate debate

10/12/2010 07:01 AM

The two U.S. Senate candidates used their second debate of the month on Monday night as a chance to describe the other as being untrustworthy, although for different reasons.

Jack Conway, the Democrat, filtered nearly every one of  his answers in the hour-long debate at Northern Kentucky University through a prism of Republican Rand Paul being out of step with Kentucky. Paul, meanwhile, repeatedly asked Conway to stand for something instead of “talking in circles.”

Round two this month’s series of debates, sponsored by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and Kentucky Enquirer and televised by WAVE-3 in Louisville and WCPO Channel 9 in Northern Kentucky, was much less polite than the first debate between the two on Fox News Sunday earlier this month.

Here are some highlights as part of the cn|2 Politics analysis. (You can see more analysis tonight at 7 p.m. on Pure Politics):

EXCHANGES

Conway and Paul had several back and forth sessions that cut into the differences between the two. They offered contrasts on just about every issue beyond the need to eventually balance the budget.

For example on the issue of earmarks, Conway said reforms to the budgetary process are necessary but that tagging federal dollars for projects can be helpful. Paul, meanwhile, used the issue as a chance to show that Conway avoids taking a firm stance.

Conway: “Some earmarks actually invest in infrastructure, like the Brent Spence bridge, like the bridges project in Northern Kentucky, like projects in and around Bowling Green, like the Bluegrass Army Depot that Senator McConnell is fighting to get all the drug agents out of there. I think in the area of earmarks, its about being responsible, making sure we have transparency. And making certain that everything is out in the open so we can see how federal dollars are spent.”

Paul: “You may need an interpretor. When you’re talking circles someone’s got to interpret for you. He’s against earmarks but he’s really for them. And he’ll use them because it’s going to be good for Kentucky. And he has no concern for the budget, but he kinda does. But he is for earmarks in the end.”

But Paul had argued earlier in the debate about the importance of context and nuance regarding what he has said about addressing Medicare.

DEFINING THEMSELVES

Both Paul and Conway cleverly moved to define the other while trying to reinforce their own message about their candidacy. Here are the best examples:

Paul: “I think being an outsider is a wonderful attribute and something I present often to show that there is a difference. So often we develop such bland candidates because they come and they talk in circles. And they don’t present solutions. They demagogue the issues. I think people are ready for straight talk. I think people are ready to recognize that our country faces grave problems and they want someone who will seriously discuss these issues and be unafraid to discuss solutions.”

Conway: You know what, I’m an independent Kentucky Democrat. I’ve broken with my party where appropriate. As attorney general, I’ve taken on the pharmaceutical companies, I’ve taken on the oil companies. I even had to take on my governor on occasion.

STYLE

Conway was more aggressive in his critique of Paul and seemed way more prepared than for the nationally televised debate on Fox News Sunday. He did conclude many of his answers with a smile that sometimes translated on the TV screen as smug.

Paul was more effective at underscoring his underlying philosophy. And he had at the ready a strong response to the line of advertising Conway has been running that uses Paul’s own words saying he favors a $2,000 deductible on Medicare. But, like his debate on Fox News Sunday, Paul still let a couple of Conway’s zingers go unchallenged.

For more analysis and highlights from the debate, watch Pure Politics Tuesday at 7 p.m. or 11:30 p.m. EST.

- Ryan Alessi

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