Conclusion: McCaskill came off as more self-assured. Talent seemed almost too energetic in slamming his opponent.
No one scored a knockout, but only the foolish would have expected one. Both candidates know what they're doing.
McCaskill wins, narrowly, by coming across as rational. Talent loses by not knowing when to shut off his attack mode. First thing he needs to do in the post-debate bliss: Hunt down the person who applied his makeup. Tony Messenger looked more hale and hearty than Talent, and even Tony would acknowledge that's saying something.
Right after the debate -- a Talent ad attacking McCaskill! And after a couple of PSAs, a McCaskill ad attacking Talent! What a surprise!
Another perspective comes from Strannix, who also notes Talent's ghostly complexion.
Also check KY3's Political Notebook for more reaction from viewers.
Closing statements. Talent says he's the change agent. McCaskill says she is. These are basically canned speeches -- long-form audio commercials with the talking points the pollsters says will work to peel away undecideds.
Shelton to McCaskill: Social Security.
McCaskill: Best plan is to stop bad plan, runaway spending. No discipline to balance budget, she says. Need to stop runaway spending, privatization. "Wall Street has enough power."
Talent: SS is vital, great program, gotta protect it. Opposed to privatization. Raises broader issue about keeping faith to seniors. He veers into nursing-home abuse.
Messengers asks about cable competition. Local versus more choice, where do you stand? Odd question, but probably will get fresh answers.
Talent: Locals need to be able to maintain revenue flow from cable companies. Doesn't mean munis should be cut out from fees.
McCaskill: Comes down on side of competition for consumer. "I believe in open markets." But big corporations in D.C. are consolidating, growing in power and influence. Have to fight for competition and to open markets.
Talent ridicules McCaskill for "conspiracy" thinking about corporations.
Messenger asks McCaskill about Mexico. She says: "Not sure" if it's U.S. responsibility. Says Mexico not doing too bad because we're borrowing money from Mexico to subsidize "this mess" in Iraq. Tries not to look soft on immigration. First responsibility is to secure the border. Says she doesn't support amnesty for illegals.
Talent: "We need to deal fairly" with Mexico. Agrees with McCaskill -- the heaven failed to open to herald this moment. Strongly supports border fence. Says McCaskill opposed fence. Opposed to amnesty, "just gonna make the problem worse." Insists she did oppose amnesty, border fence.
McCaskill rebuttal: "I said a fence wasn't going to solve the problem, and it won't." Says Talent just keeps repeating "smears against me and my family ... because they don't have issues to talk about."
Shelton asks Talent about environment -- global warming. Goody.
Talent: Yeah, I think global warming is a problem. Don't know how fast, don't know if humans are to blame, don't know what to do about it. Says burning ethanol, biodiesel will help. About to rip McCaskill for being against it, just watch. "My opponent opposed it." Yep, there it is. She took the "northeast line, the East Coast line." So that's where McCaskill gets her accent.
McCaskill: Global warming definitely a problem. Says Talent said "no one is sure if the Earth getting warmer is necessarily a bad thing." In 2005. Can't wait to hear his response. She says she was for ethanol in 1988, back before it was cool. Brings up subsidies for oil and Talent's ties to those companies.
God bless Jerry Jacob. For the third time he's gently reminded both candidates to try to stick with the question given them. Next time he should pull a Hunter. We'd cheer.
Catanese asks about No Child Left Behind; McCaskill says she and Talent agree with the basic tenets, but then she says Talent is against Head Start, other popular programs for kids.
Talent: Education very important, obviously. Supported $2.2 billion in fed support for local schools. Says feds should enpower local districts. Always supported education increases, he says. Disturbed by NCLB red tape.
McCaskill: Look at Talent's record; he said private schools should be funded with public money.
Catanese asks about wasteful government spending, big budget deficits. Can Talent name an earmark he'd kill for Missouri?
Talent: Doesn't answer. Pivots to cutting taxes, says revenue is way up and that the budget deficit isn't that big a deal. "We do need to eliminate wasteful spending," he says, but doesn't bring up any single program he thinks is wasteful.
McCaskill: Points out that Talent didn't answer the question. Says voters should go on auditor's website and see over 800 audits that expose wasteful spending in Missouri. Specifics, she says. For second time, brings up Talent "going to Washington 14 years ago."
In rebuttal, Talent brings up McCaskill and taxes, personal issues. Yikes.
Shelton asks about McCaskill as a Catholic, her support for the stem-cell initiative (the Catholic Church is against it). Says she's prayed about it. But she seems to be missing a chance to talk stronger on her ability to disagree with her faith while still being faithful.
Talent: On the ballot issue, would create constitutional right to clone. "I'm not for that," he says, while maintaining he's for stem-cell research. Now calls her no friend of life, brings up her pro-choice stance.
McCaskill: Personally opposed to abortion. No support for partial-birth abortion. We need to come together and prevent abortions.
Observation: Talent had no problem answering how he'll vote on Missouri's stem-cell initiative. Why the problem with talking about the minimum wage proposal?
Messenger: Do you believe Auditor McCaskill is a liar and a cheat, as a veteran claims in a Talent radio ad?
Talent: "No, I wouldn't have used those words." Talks about his record on veterans, says believes in "obligations of honor." Cites awards from veterans, says McCaskill has done nothing to vets worth recognizing.
McCaskill: He approved an ad that said that. How to clean things up if "we, as candidates, don't stop it?"
Our comment: There's a thread here that seems to work -- people are genuinely fed up with the amount of money being sunk into political campaigns. Between McCaskill and Talent, they've raised $16 million, and that doesn't include money from the national Dems and GOP pockets. Call it $30 million, all told. For what?
McCaskill asks Talent (nice format touch, that): "As someone whose salary is paid by the taxpayers ... yes or no, how will you vote on the minimum wage proposal that you will be voting on in three weeks? Yes or no?"
Talent: An issue for the state's voters to decide. He doesn't take the bait. He should have. Pushes PLAY on the minimum-wage-will-hurt-small-business recording.
Talent asks McCaskill: We know your family owns 150 limited partnerships ... you own an off-shore tax shelter in Bermuda ... will you release your family's tax returns?"
McCaskill: This campaign is going to new lows. "Washington has changed Jim Talent more than he has changed Washington." Says family has released book of information on holdings. No tax sheltering that isn't part of the tax code. This is just about smear, she says. "We're better than that in Missouri ... I will not attack Senator Talent's family."
Missy Shelton asks Talent about Iraq. Why aren't you advocating sending troops to Iran and North Korea?
Talent: Entire mission was to replace Saddam Hussein. Now replaced with democracy. S'all good. Criticizes McCaskill for being weak on national security. Didn't answer the question.
McCaskill: Man running government in Iraq leads a failed policy. Says U.S. has "tunnel vision" in Iraq and hasn't paid attention to Iran, North Korea. Uh-oh, now she's done it -- she says no nukes under Clinton Administration.
Talent: "Iraq is helping us," he insists. "Not sponsoring terrorism in region, not invading their neighbor." Once Iraq government can defend itself, all will be well.
Tony Messenger: Health care question. Talent supports legislation to pool small-biz money for better savings on health insurance.
McCaskill: Supports it, "a good idea." Says Talent hasn't gotten it passed in a GOP-controlled Congress. Reason, she says: Mandates for consumer rights that Republicans don't like. Can create insurance pool for small businesses while still protecting consumers (she mentions women trying to get mammograms). She proposes participating in federal program.
Talent: "She doesn't support" the bill. Equates it to farm coop. Savings of "10, 15, 20, 25 percent ... and it wouldn't cost consumers a dime." Wouldn't "cost anybody anything," he says in a special bit of hyperbole.
McCaskill rebuts: "I certainly support small businesses." Cites auditor job as proof she's independent. Whips out the "Talent voted for taxes" line. Yawner.
Dave Catanese asks about Iraq. "Can you both agree that what you're saying, you'd like to see U.S. troops out of Iraq?" McCaskill answers first, criticizes Bush and his "preoccupation" with Iraq. "We need to change course," she says. She's got the majority of people on her side. Launches the two-year time limit for redeployment.
Talent: "We're not gonna win victories if we leave," he says. That's what McCaskill wants to do, her adds. "We need to finish the job ... and then come home with a victory in our pocket." He links McCaskill to "Howard Dean's disengagement plan." Clumsy line, old hat. Is Howard Dean (or Ken Mehlman) that important to the average voter?
McCaskill rebuttal: Evokes John Warner to say she's right and Talent is wrong. Nails Talent for not showing up for two-thirds of armed services committee meetings.
Talent looks pasty under the lights. McCaskill looks fine. Someone get that pale boy a makeup artist!
Talent gets the chance to speak first. We don't mean to be shallow, but his complexion is uncomfortable. Richard Nixon looked shadowy in his first TV debate with John Kennedy, and that didn't turn out too well for Tricky Dick.
Talent is talking a bit fast. Reeled off his conservaive bona fides -- Alito yes, stem-cell no. Now he's ripping into McCaskill. "This election's about who's gonna change the system," Talent says.
McCaskill: Takes him on for attacking the opponent. Turns to the tack of wanting to change Washington. "It's a mess out there," she declares. Uses the "I" word -- independent -- to evoke Harry Truman. Then does what Talent does, and rips into her opponent.
These opening statements are mostly forgotten by debate's end, unless someone drools. Questions incoming from the Gang of Three.
Just an aside, but this "Deal or No Deal" show is incredibly annoying. Almost as bad as the NBC promos for that new John Lithgow show.
Monday night, Springfield, and Missouri's major-party candidates for U.S. Senate are holding a debate. Sponsored by KYTV, KSMU and the News-Leader, this rules-driven gabfest is especially important for both camps. Claire McCaskill needs a respectable showing in southwest Missouri; Talent has to keep his base from staying home on Election Day.
What the hell. We're going to live-blog this pup. Jerry Jacob is the moderator. Missy Shelton of KSMU, David Catanese of KYTV and Tony Messenger from Ye Olde News-Leader are armed with questions. Join in with your comments.