One of the hottest Senate races in the country continued Monday night, with Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen meeting for another debate in Virginia on who should be the state’s next U.S. Senator — and who was more dedicated to Virginia itself.
Going into the debate in Richmond, Kaine has maintained a sizable in the PollTracker Average, 49.5 percent to 42.7 percent. And right from his opening remarks, he both touted his own recored as governor — and took a shot at Allen and other Republicans.
“I’m especially proud to be in the studio of my hometown public television station, WCVE. I’m a huge public broadcasting fan. I think public broadcasting does great work — and I pledge tonight not to fire Big Bird, and not to defund public broadcasting if I go to the U.S. Senate,” said Kaine. “What I will do is work to accelerate the economy and add jobs, using Virginia lessons that I learned as mayor of this city, and as Governor of Virginia.
“If we invest in talent, if we invest in infrastructure, if we level the playing field for small businesses, we’ll grow the economy. We see some positive signs — but frankly, we have a ball and chain — and that’s Congress. Congress is holding us back. And what we We need to do is change congress, especially in two ways. We need people who are more fiscally responsible. And we need more people who know, frankly, the basics of how to work together.”
Allen, seeking a comeback after his surprise loss in 2006 — in which a seemingly certain re-election was thrown into chaos when he called an Indian-American Democratic video tracker “macaca,” and sarcastically welcomed him to America — touted his own platform that he has called the “Blueprint For America’s Comeback.”
He attacked Kaine for serving as Democratic National Committee Chairman during the final year of his governorship in 2009 and during heat of the economic crisis — part of a running theme of tying Kaine in a negative manner to President Obama.
“It’s really the great, unanswered question in this campaign: How does a governor decide to take on a second job, that sends him all over the country giving partisan speeches, while over 100,000 jobs are lost here in Virginia,” said Allen. “If Tim had given his governorship the full attention, he might have avoided some mistakes, like increasing college tuition by over 30%, or closing rest areas. If Tim had been listening to the people of Virginia who are really facing tough Times, he might not have proposed raising taxes on working people, working women, seniors, small business owners, and people earning as little as $17,000 a year.
“And he might have been against the sequestration deal that is threatening over 200,000 jobs in Virginia right now. But he made different choices, and soon, you’ll get to choose. If I have the honor of being your senator, I’m gonna give all my energy to working with people in both parties, to create jobs and get america ascending once again.”
For his part, Kaine said of his final year as governor, “I think I had my best year,” touting accomplishments on a public smoking ban, improvements in infant mortality, foster care reform, and recruiting businesses to come to Virginia during the recession. He also noted that Allen, while he was a senator, had served for two years as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Allen responded: “Well Tim, there’s a big difference between being chair of the entire Democratic Party committee, and other political jobs,” going on to add, “You could’ve told the president that people are hurting in Virginia, and you needed to give all of your attention to the people of Virginia. Now, you’re asking for another job when in the other job you had for the people of Virginia, you did not give them 100 percent.”
The two also locked horns on how to fix the federal deficit, and reform the tax code.
“We have a balance sheet that’s broken. When George Allen went to the senate, it was fixed — we actually had a surplus. But he broke both sides of the balance sheet. He dramatically slashed taxes, and he jacked up spending, $16,000 of debt every second that he served for six years. When he left the Senate, the balance sheet was completely out of whack, and it’s there to today.
“I really believe that to fix it you have to fix it on both sides of the balance sheet,” said Kaine, calling for spending cuts at a ratio of about $2-$3 to every $1 in tax increases, and to allow the Bush tax cuts on incomes of over $500,000 to expire.
For his part, Allen called for a balance of a different kind — involving cuts in both spending and taxes.
“We do need a balance. There needs to be cuts made in federal spending — and we also need to grow the economy. There are a variety of things — I think, right off the bat, what ought to be cut, and repealed and replaced, is Obamacare — that will save over $1 trillion. That’ll also be beneficial for small businesses.
He also “We also need comprehensive tax reform. I think we ought to have a tax code that’s more simple, more fair, and more competitive. What I’ve been advocating is to reduce the tax on job-creating businesses, to 20%. The international average is 25 percent, though the federal government is imposing the worst in the world tax rate of 35 percent. Now if we reduce it to 20%, over 500,000 jobs would be created, and $23 billion of new revenues. And that would send a message that America is open for business again.”
He also later got in a brief rebuttal to Kaine’s many shots at his past Senate record: “Let me add one other thing, that Tim was talking about. When I left the Senate, Tim, unemployment was only 4.4 percent. The budget deficit, annual deficit, was $160 billion, and on a trajectory to being balanced. Now it’s $1.1 trillion, seven times higher. You mentioned spending at $16,000 per second. You know what it is now — $47,000 per second…When I left the Senate, government was borrowing about 6 cents of every dollar spent, and now it’s 31 cents being borrowed of every dollar being spent. That’s why we need fiscal discipline in Washington.”
This is one of the races Democrats must win to hold on to their Senate majority. The race has often been close. But Kaine now seems to have built a modest lead. And Allen is running out of time to shift the momentum of the race.