The two candidates for Wisconsin’s open Senate seat — Democrat Tammy Baldwin and Republican Tommy Thompson — took part in a heated debate in Wausau, Wis., and much of it had to do with the debate’s unconventional format. At the beginning of the debate, the two moderators announced that there would be designated blocks of time where there would be “open exchanges” between the candidates, without the moderators interfering.
That format led to some fiery exchanges, on everything from health care to controversial supporters of the candidates.
“If you want to interrupt me, Joe Biden, just give me a chance,” Thompson said during one exchange.
At numerous points during the open forum, the two candidates cut each other off and accused the other of not telling the truth.
The debate played more to Thompson’s aggressive style.
“Anyway, let’s move away from this,” Baldwin said at one point, talking about tax reform. Baldwin introduced the so-called “Buffett Rule,” which would raise taxes on incomes of more than $1 million.
“No, let’s not,” Thompson retorted, accusing Baldwin of voting to increase taxes 155 times while saying he cut taxes as Wisconsin’s governor.
Thompson’s performance riled up a crowd of Republicans at a debate-watching party in the heavily Republican town of Waukesha. They cheered at some of his stronger attack lines. A popular line came when he described his plan to make a flat tax an option.
“You can do it during the halftime of the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears,” Thompson said.
Still, Thompson’s overall performance failed to provide a slam dunk that will move the needle in a race that has tightened considerably as of late.
Keith Best, the public relations chair of the Waukesha’s Republican Party, said he would have liked Thompson to “hammer home” a Thursday report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It found that Baldwin has received nearly $60,000 in donations from Council for a Livable World, a group that opposes sanctions on Iran.
When Thompson did bring it up, in fact, he got the name of the group wrong — he called it “Council for a Living Earth.”
“It’s important that he got the information out there,” Best said. “But he should have known the name if he was going to bring it up.”
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