McMahon v. Murphy II: Dark, Sharp, Hollow…

…and that was just the theatre where the debate was held. The second debate in the nasty, personal and nationally watched US Senate race between Republican Linda McMahon and Democrat Chris Murphy was a microcosm of the race in general. It’s hard for voters to break through all the personal attacks to see what the candidates are really all about.

One again, Murphy proved to be by far, the better debater. The two battled about taxes, women’s health issues and interestingly, about how this race affects the national scene—control of the Senate is at stake. As a sitting congressman, he had a better command of the issues. For instance, on the women’s health issue of contraception, McMahon seemed not to know what the Blunt Amendment even was.

Anyone watching the debate on TV was treated to a humorous bit of irony. The candidates ended a segment with a spirited argument about whether McMahon said she wanted to sunset Social Security as Murphy claimed. McMahon vehemently denied it. They went to break and the first commercial that ran was a third-party PAC ad that had video of McMahon talking about putting sunset provisions on certain legislation. It’s a huge stretch to say she wanted to do that to Social Security but the timing was great nonetheless.

Yet just like the overall campaign, last night’s forum was marred by personal attacks. When panelist Chris Keating of the Hartford Courant asked the candidates whether they would change the tone of the contest in the remaining three-plus weeks and move away from the negative ads, Murphy said he wanted to talk about issues. McMahon responded by attacking Murphy. Don’t expect anything in this race to change.

The setting for the debate was a bad omen for how things were going to proceed. The lighting on the UConn Jorgenson Center for the Performing Arts stage looked like it was set for Phantom of the Opera. The moderator, questioning panel and the candidates were all dark and the sound was hollow and had an echo. My fellow tweeters who were at the event said they couldn’t even hear the questions.

After the August primary, Linda McMahon used a barrage of negative ads against Murphy to pull even and in some polls, even had a lead. But Murphy reversed that with a strong performance in the first debate last Sunday. He leads by 5 points in the Rasmussen poll taken right after that debate.

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