Bill Halter on the Attack, Blanche Lincoln Holds Firm at #ARSenDebate

That (above) was the scene just before tonight’s Democratic U.S. Senate debate at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, carried live on KATV-TV, Channel 7; C-SPAN; KUAR-FM, 89.1; and Politico.com.

Blanche Lincoln supporters rallied for the TV cameras just minutes before the incumbent took the stage to face two challengers, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter and businessman D.C. Morrison. One of them was entertaining!

The other two? Well, let’s just say there were few surprises, as Lincoln and Halter stuck mainly to their respective scripts. Lincoln: “One tough lady” who has cast the tough votes and worked hard for the working men and women of Arkansas, her allegiance to them higher than to her own party. Halter: The optimist who says Washington is broken, missing Arkansas values and besieged by special interests and politicians who are bought and paid for.

After the jump, some quick analysis and links to related coverage, including KATV video.

The rigid format for the debate — 2 minute opening and closing statements and 1-minute answers to panel questions, no rebuttals — kept any real “debate” at a minimum, but candidates did get some jabs in. But not without first lamenting this “negative” campaign.

From the Andrew DeMillo at AP:

Lincoln and Halter, who have been engaged in an expensive air war of dueling attack ads, joined Little Rock businessman D.C. Morrison in the hour-long debate at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

“I am disappointed by the negative tone of this election,” said Lincoln, who said she was being outspent by outside groups buying air time in the state. Halter added: “I too would love to see an improved tone for the campaign.”

Halter said he asked his campaign to take down the website BailoutBlanche.com and asked Lincoln’s campaign to stop referring to him as “Dollar Bill Halter.”

Halter also accused Lincoln of changing positions on Card Check, the measure that would make it easier for unions (big Halter supporters) to organize, saying Lincoln was sponsor of a Card Check bill before she was against it. And he accused her of trying to have it all ways on health care, being for the public option before she was against it and voting for the Senate health care bill before voting against the reconciliation bill from the House.

Lincoln, responding to Halter saying he was in the Clinton administration budget office when Clinton crafted and pushed through his balanced budget in 1993, noted that she made the “tough votes” to get it passed.

And when Halter brought up Goldman Sachs contributions to Lincoln’s campaign, Lincoln came back with her big financial reform measures targeting derivatives, which she pushed out of the Agriculture Committee this week.

At this point, you might have noticed a pattern: Lincoln always playing strong defense to Halter’s aggressive offensive. Saying that Halter was on the “attack” is too strong. It was more subtle, but it kept Lincoln dancing to his tune, as he took every opportunity to point out Lincoln contradictions on issues like health care and Card Check.

Perhaps that’s to be expected when an incumbent with a 10-year-plus record has to stand against two challengers who’ve never cast a Congressional vote.

In the end, Lincoln did the best she could and probably didn’t lose any ground tonight. She was strong and stuck to her major campaign themes. Halter looked confident and scored some points in a lot of ways that will make die-hard Democrats smile. But did he win any new supporters? I’m not so sure.

D.C. Morrison cracked some jokes and only slapped the microphone awkwardly once, which is pretty good! He even plugged a book on George McGovern. Oprah who?

So there you have it. It was a waste of time! But at least it ended in hugs, as D.C. Morrison embraced both his opponents as the debate ended. A positive campaign after all.

More Coverage

Associated Press’ Andrew DeMillo on the debate, via ArkansasBusiness.com

Blake Rutherford’s painstaking live-blog. Read it for no other reason than to make it worth all that incessant typing noise I had to endure sitting next to him. And yes, live-blogging is as tedious is to watch as it is to read. But hey – there’s jokes!

Arkansas News’ John Lyon’s debate wrap. Everyone hates negative campaigning.

Northwest Arkansas TV affiliate 40/29’s YouTube Channel, which has tons of clips from tonight’s debate. Watch them ’till your eyes cross.

Jason Tolbert was stuck at home and watching on TV. His impressions here.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Seth Blomeley’s sadly locked-down report from the Saturday paper.

Max Brantley’s wrap here, including another video of rowdy supporters and spin from the campaigns, special interests. Everyone won the debate!

John Brummett – “Halter comes up short.” Pun!

Twitter’s #ARSenDebate feed. Real-time wisecracks from all the yahoos, including me.

TV coverage – KATV, KARK, KLRT

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