For the first time, the candidates for U.S. Senate in Missouri squared off for a debate.
Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Todd Akin made their case to voters Friday in Columbia. It was their first joint appearance since Akin won the August primary.
Friday's debate was McCaskill's chance to remind voters about Akin's missteps in the past week and she took it while Akin deflected each attack and worked to get back to the talking points he hasn't been able to focus on in the summer months of this campaign.
"I'm in the middle, and it's just he's so far on the fringe. That's where the contrast comes in," McCaskill said.
It was clear from the minute opening remarks were had, McCaskill was not going to let people forget about Akin's Republican stance.
"He's apologized for those comments, but they say a lot about how he views things," she said.
But, for the first time in weeks, Akin stuck to his party's talking points, avoiding acknowledgment of his recent controversial comments about "legitimate rape."
"It's not about words. It's about two different voting records that are exact opposite. Claire can say she's a 50 percenter but, when you vote 98 percent of the time with Obama and then tell us you're a regular middle-of-the-roader, that takes guts. I've got to give her that," he said.
Akin has since apologized for saying a woman's body shuts down and prevents a pregnancy during a "legitimate rape" last month. But Republican Party leaders have attempted to force him to get off the ballot. That deadline is Tuesday.
Questions quickly turned to other topics like the government's role in healthcare incentives, one topic the two could agree on.
"I don't think the government needs to be telling people what they should eat, what they should drink," McCaskill said.
"I agree this is the first time I've agreed with Claire. This isn't something the federal government should do," Akin said.
It was an easing moment in an hour-long debate where candidates argued McCaskill's vote in favor Obamacare.
"Putting Medicare on a firm financial footing would first involve repealing Obamacare," Akin said.
Akin painted McCaskill as a tax-and-spend liberal who is not a moderate.
At one point the senator told Akin to go back to Washington.
"Stop campaigning, go back to Washington and help us pass the postal bill," McCaskill said.
It was a contentious first face-to-face the two candidates had on their road to November.
There were actually three candidates involved in Friday's debate. Libertarian Jonathan Dine took aim at Akin and his credentials.
"I was astonished to find Akin sits on the science committee yet he fails to understand basic eighth-grade biology," Dine said.
The next debate between McCaskill and Akin will be held in St. Louis on Oct. 18.
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