The fireworks started early during the first televised debate between Connecticut’s U.S. Senate candidates, Democrat Chris Murphy and Republican Linda McMahon.
McMahon accused Murphy, a three-term Congressman, of receiving a sweetheart mortgage deal and wanting the race to be a “coronation.” Murphy accused McMahon, former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, of avoiding the issues and “parroting right wing talking points” in her economic plan.
“Linda McMahon doesn’t want this campaign to be about issues because if it is she loses . . . She can’t win because her economic plan is rooted in Republican national talking points,” Murphy said. “My economic plan is rooted in the people of this state.”
“Congressman Murphy, shame on you. You have just accused me of plagiarizing my plan,” McMahon countered. “You know very well that my plan is my own.“
On the eve of the debate the Murphy campaign accused McMahon of taking ideas from other right-wing conservatives and compiling them as part of her economic plan. But the plagiarism argument falls flat and the news media largely ignored the accusation because McMahon’s plan has always used citations, attributing various portions of her plan to other sources.
“Every word of that plan has been cited,” McMahon said.
Murphy said he didn’t know what to call it, if not plagiarism, but reiterated that the text in McMahon’s plan was identical to Republican talking points published elsewhere.
When WFSB host Dennis House tried to interrupt McMahon, she ignored him and said she was going to finish.
“When you got into this race as a Democrat in the state of Connecticut you thought this was going to be a coronation,” McMahon said. “But now you’re in a serious race with a serious woman and you have resorted now to these kinds of policies . . . it’s desperate.”
Murphy argued for more time to respond but House refused.
Murphy dismissed the next question instead and used it as an opportunity to respond to McMahon’s accusations.
He talked about how extending the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans “just doesn’t work.” He urged there to be a discussion about the differences.
The two candidates did agree to a 1 percent reduction in federal spending, but their cuts would be made in different areas.
Murphy would cut “discretionary spending,” while McMahon’s cuts wouldn’t touch defense spending or entitlements.
On taxes, McMahon argued that her plan is the only one with a “middle class tax cut,” while Murphy’s plan would simply keep the Bush tax cuts in place for the middle class.
Murphy countered that Fred Carstensen, director of the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis, said “it’s a recipe to balloon the federal deficit.”
McMahon’s campaign has argued the economist is not taking into consideration the growth in the economy, which is assumed under her plan.
McMahon revealed during the debate that she’s had a change of heart when it comes to the Defense of Marriage Act. In 2010, McMahon favored DOMA, but said Sunday that she would vote to repeal it even though her answer on the air may have been confusing.
“I live in Connecticut and I absolutely support America’s law for same-sex marriage,” McMahon said during the debate.
Murphy caught the slip up and tried to capitalize on it.
“America doesn’t have a law protecting same-sex marriage,” Murphy said. “In fact it has the exact opposite.”
“I think the fact that Linda McMahon spent about 20 seconds answering that question tells you that she’s not going to stand up to her party in Washington when it comes to these issues that right now in Washington are being dominated by the social right,” Murphy said.
He said there is a war being fought against gays and lesbians and he’s been proud to stand on one side of that war.
McMahon said she will absolutely differ from her party, not only on the Defense of Marriage Act but on other issues as well, and would vote to repeal it.
“It doesn’t seem fair the folks in Connecticut have the right to be married and they don’t have the same rights as a heterosexual couple for federal benefits. I just don’t think that’s fair,” McMahon said after the debate.
McMahon admitted that’s she’s changed her position on DOMA and says her movement toward repealing it has “evolved.” She was unable to pinpoint an exact timeframe or incident for the evolution.
Neither McMahon or Murphy seemed willing to budge Sunday when confronted about the lack of news media access each campaign seems to be allowing.
“Both of you have failed a basic standard of transparency and access in this campaign,” Mark Pazniokas of the CT Mirror, told them Sunday. “Neither one of you performs the basic task of letting us know where you are day-to-day.”
“I am out every single day,” McMahon said. “I’ve been in 150 living rooms around the state.”
But the media isn’t allowed to tag along.
Ignoring the difference, McMahon said she thinks the campaign has been very effective in communicating with the voters of the state. She even used the question as an opportunity to promote her website: Lindasplan.com
Murphy said the campaign is about the people of Connecticut and people want to know the difference between McMahon’s economic plan and his.
He bristled at the notion that there’s any similarity between his campaign and McMahon’s in regard to accessibility for news media.
“Linda has refused to meet with editorial boards, I’ve been very willing to do so. I can’t count the number that I’ve done in a very different manner,” Murphy said, ignoring the question as it pertains to his own campaign, which was criticized recently for refusing to appear on WNPR’s “Where We Live” with John Dankosky.