Tonight, Dick Blumenthal and Linda McMahon met for their third and final debate at the Garde Arts Center in New London, Conn. The theme was the lack of one. The audience did not learn anything really new, and the panelists — to the crowd’s displeasure — cut the candidates off before they could dig into each other.
Right off the bat, Blumenthal tried to burnish his economic credentials in light of his rambling answer to a question about jobs at the first debate. “People create jobs. Small businesses create jobs. Government can provide the tools,” he declared. He then listed some of those tools: aid for exports, more financing for small businesses, and tax deductions for startups.
Later, a panelist asked Blumenthal about Greg Mankiw’s recent op-ed in the New York Times, in which Mankiw argued raising taxes would discourage him from working. In response, Blumenthal argued raising taxes was about fairness and accused McMahon of putting profits before people.
“Until you have profits, you can’t hire more people,” McMahon responded.
McMahon’s emphasis was on free trade. “President Obama said if we increase exports by one percent, we will add 250,000 jobs. We have free-trade agreements pending in Congress. . . . Last week the EU moved forward with its free-trade agreement with South Korea. . . . We have to make sure that we have those markets for our exports.”
McMahon then leveled a surprise attack: She mentioned Blumenthal’s holdings in companies operating in China and India, adding that “prior to getting into this election, you divested your holdings in a company in the Cayman Islands.”
“Any investments I have pale in comparison to the example you have set,” Blumenthal retorted.
Challenged on World Wrestling Entertainment’s sleazy content, McMahon defender her record. “I think there were times when we pushed the envelope. But I’m very proud of the company that today is involved in programs like . . . Make-a-Wish Foundation,” McMahon said. She also suggested that if people dislike WWE’s content, they could choose not to watch it.
“Throughout my 20-year career, I have fought to protect children,” Blumenthal responded. “I made a record of fighting to safeguard children from dangers of addiction, for example, to tobacco. The people of Connecticut have to ask whose side each of the candidates has been on. My opponent has not only marketed sex and violence to children, but she also paid hundreds of millions of dollars to lobbyists.”
Blumenthal broached WWE a second time during a discussion of health care. The Democrat said he supported the president’s efforts and called the recent increases in premiums “completely unjustified.” Then, he shifted back to McMahon’s company. “I can’t believe that I just heard Ms. McMahon brag about this wellness policy at WWE,” he said. “She requires all wrestlers to sign a death clause that absolves WWE of all responsibility if wrestlers are killed in the ring and if the company is at fault. Absolves her company of all responsibility. That wellness policy is not working too well. There have been seven dead wrestlers since she started campaigning.”
McMahon ignored the swipe. “If you are adding people to the health-care rolls, if you are adding mandates . . . does it not stand to reason that the premiums would go up?” she asked.
Changing topics, a panelist asked McMahon about Democrats’ efforts at mandating disclosure of political donors’ information. “It’s my understanding, relative to this particular bill, that there are carve-outs, like unions don’t have to be disclosed if they are putting up an advertisement. That’s my understanding, so therefore I don’t think it is full disclosure,” she responded. “I don’t think Congress should be choosing which group has freedom of speech.”
“I support absolute full disclosure,” Blumenthal replied. “People rightfully are angry that Washington isn’t listening . . . part of the reason is special interests are getting special breaks. . . . The Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court is releasing a deluge of special-interest money.”
“I’m just confused then, Mr. Blumenthal, why you are taking special-interest money to fund your campaign,” McMahon wondered aloud.
“You know, the people of Connecticut know me,” Blumenthal responded — to jeers from McMahon’s side of the room — before accusing McMahon of putting profits before people. His side of the room accordingly cheered.
Near the end, McMahon concluded, “When you say the people of Connecticut know you, they now know that you have a difficult time telling the truth.” Blumenthal’s final attack: “I must say I will not be lectured on straight talk from a woman who has failed to be straight with the people of Connecticut.”
The crowd groaned as the candidates began their closing statements — at the last debate of a contentious campaign, the fight had just started.