Linda McMahon, Richard Blumenthal Clash Over Vietnam, Minimum Wage, Campaign Spending At First Debate

Oct 5, 2010 7:22am

ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports:

Just hours after Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon deployed a hard-hitting television ad attacking her opponent, Richard Blumenthal, for misstatements he made about his service during the Vietnam War era, the two candidates sparred in person over the accusations at their first official debate of the general election.

“There is nothing new in this ad, and there is nothing new about the McMahon attack on me,” Blumenthal, the state’s Democratic attorney general said, adding that he was “sorry” that on a handful of occasions he exaggerated his military service. “I regret it. I take full responsibility for it.”

Blumenthal’s defense has become a familiar refrain of the campaign ever since the allegations about past comments about his record during the Vietnam War surfaced in press reports this spring. McMahon, the Republican former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment, released a 30-second ad in advance of Monday night’s debate in Hartford that pointedly asks: “If he lied about Vietnam, what else is he lying about?”

But Blumenthal brought his own ammunition to the forum, raising questions — as he has with his own television ad — about his whether his GOP opponent supports cutting the minimum wage.

“That’s a lie. You know that’s a lie,” McMahon said. “I never said it.” She called on Blumenthal to pull the ad asserting that she is “talking about lowering the minimum wage” and noting that she fired “10 percent of her workers” as a business executive.

McMahon also responded to the second charge, saying: “Layoffs are hard, they are really tough to do, but sometimes you have to make those tough decisions to move your company forward.”

From the beginning of the face-to-face meeting between the two candidates, who are vying to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, McMahon characterized Blumenthal as a creature of politics lacking real-world experience and casting herself as an entrepreneur who would bring change to Washington.

McMahon has spent tens of millions of her own fortune on the race — a point that Blumenthal underscored when he accused his opponent of trying to buy the Senate seat like an “auction.” 

“My campaign might be outspent, but it won’t be outworked,” he said, “and the people of Connecticut want an election, not an auction.”

While recent polls indicate a tight race, Blumenthal appears to have an edge as the clock ticks down to Election Day.

The debate did have its moments of humor, including a “lightening round” during which both candidates professed their love for the New York Yankees and thin-crust pizza. “Thin and crispy every time,” Blumenthal said.

The debate was co-sponsored by the Hartford Courant and Fox Connecticut and broadcast live on television and the Internet.

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