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A slow and sarcastic first McFadden-Franken debate

If you’ve been following Minnesota’s U.S. Senate race, there wasn’t much new in the candidates’ exchanges.

Full video of Wednesday’s debate between Sen. Al Franken and challenger Mike McFadden, courtesy of the UpTake.

The slow start to Minnesota’s U.S. Senate debate stayed slow Wednesday morning with an hourlong exchange in Duluth, not carried on live TV or radio but available online. If you’ve been following the race, there wasn’t much new this morning.

I didn’t hear the candidates say anything new about their policy positions. GOP candidate Mike McFadden claims to have ideas on a lot of issues, including many on which his policy proposals are not fully baked.

“Obamacare is a train wreck,” he said at one point. “It’s a wreck. And I will fix it.” The Republican challenger has, in fact, recently put out a more detailed plan to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act with a  more state-based new approach that would reduce the role of the federal government.

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Incumbent Democrat Sen. Al Franken generally replied that, especially in today’s gridlocked Washington, if the Republicans ever succeeded in repealing Obamacare, they would never have the votes to replace it and all of its benefits would be lost, mentioning several of the most popular of those benefits.

But there was nothing new in this exchange as they have both made these points many times previously, although not while sharing a stage.

McFadden, who was on the attack throughout the debate, repeatedly mentioned that Franken voted with the Obama administration on 97 percent of votes on which the administration took a position. He also said that Franken’s voting record led the Senate in the portion of votes on which his vote agreed with the majority of Senate Democrats.

Franken pushed back a bit, accusing McFadden of “cherry-picking” the votes he was scoring. The third or fourth time McFadden brought up the 97-percent-Obama-voting-record, Franken interrupted sarcastically to say: “What was that number? Let me write that down so I don’t forget.”

McFadden blamed Franken and President Obama for the slowest recovery from any recession in history. Franken said the economy had gained back a lot of ground but too much of the benefit has gone to the already wealthy and not enough to Americans of ordinary means, which, he said, is why he wants to do things like raise the minimum wage, focus education reform on the skills gap so graduates can get good jobs and help young workers who are struggling with student debt to refinance their debt at today’s lower interest rates.

The debate covered the Iron Range mining projects that have been stalled by regulatory review. McFadden says he would do something (unspecified) to get them approved. Franken said he favored the projects going forward but doesn’t want to interrupt the environmental review so the projects will be sustainable.

I had only audio of the debate, but McFadden certainly seemed more enthusiastic. Franken wanted to explain the complexity of various issues. McFadden said things like: “I will go to Washington to fix things. I will roll up my sleeves. I will go to Washington and build consensus. I look forward to fixing this country and getting us back on track.”