Democrat Conner Eldridge
finally got his one debate with Republican U.S. Senator John Boozman
today on AETN (along with Libertarian Frank Gilbert
) and it was mostly an hour of well-worn talking points.
Boozman defended his continued support of Donald Trump by saying he was preferable, particularly on Supreme Court appointments to Hillary Clinton. "I have to look at the total package," Boozman said. He also said she'd amount to a third term for President Obama. "Our country cannot take a third term."
Eldridge said of Trump: "We should not give Donald Trump an open mic with American foreign policy and we should not give him the nuclear code.
Boozman responded by pivoting to an attack on Clinton and repeating some well-worn and borderline dishonest Republican talking points. Ordinary people would have "been indicted," he said, for handling communications as Clinton did as secretary of state. The head of the FBI has forcefully disagreed with this view. Boozman said her first response after the attacks in Libya was not protection of people on the ground but "covering her own rear," a finding months of investigation haven't supported. And finally he said the Clinton Foundation was a "slush fund" for the Clintons and she'd given "preferential treatment" to contributors as secretary of state. There's been no such factual finding in either case.
Eldridge hit Trump as unsuited for the office of president, but shied away from any sort of defense of Hillary Clinton. He said he could work for or against both as president as the needs of Arkansas demanded.
Gilbert said his party offered an alternative to both "flawed" candidates.
Elrdridge repeated that Boozman had done little in Washington in 15 years but name a few postoffices and take foreign trips. Boozman linked Eldridge to President Obama, who Eldridge served as a U.S. attorney.
In opening, Boozman said voters were interested in jobs, government regulation and national security.
Eldridge indicated people wanted a leader who could "cut through partisan rhetoric." Again and again, he identified himself as something other than a partisan candidate.
Asked about Clinton's characterization of some Trump supporters as in a "basket of deplorables, Eldridge said, "She should be called out for that. That remark was wrong." He used this as an opportunity to again demonstrate he was a "new voice." Boozman said that was a rare instance of Eldridge being critical of Clinton.
Eldridge lamented that Boozman again offered the Republican "Obama, Obama, Obama" attack line.
Obamacare? Boozman said it could be fixed with "free market principles." Competition. Tort reform. Health savings accounts. But he had nothing in the way of specifics to continue to cover the 20 million newly insured by the Affordable Care Act.
Eldridge opposed repeal of Obamacare because of the 300,000 Arkansans now insured. "I don't think we should walk out on the street and tell one out of every 10 people in Arkansas they should lose their health insurance." He said Boozman's answers on the question haven't changed since he first ran. He said repeal would also close rural hospitals.
Boozman argued that the growth of Obamacare would lead to consolidation of hospitals and, thus, the loss of community hospitals.
* Boozman: Need to restore confidence in institutions and government by working together. He said he'd done that as Razorback, on school board and in Senate.
* Eldridge: Election is about vision and future and rejection of status quo. "I could make a difference on issue after issue." He said, "Senator, you're a "nice man," but "it's time we do something different." He invited Boozman to debate again.
* Gilbert: Nothing will change with a vote for Boozman or Eldridge. "If you want to have a real impact, if you want to get Democrats and Republicans working together, send Frank Gilbert to the Senate." He'd ben outsider, not part of the "game."
The debate was taped this afternoon. It will be shown tonight at 7 p.m. The candidates for 2nd District congress will tape their debate at 5:30 p.m. and it will be aired on AETN at 8 p.m.