U.S. Senate candidates, U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., left, and U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., prepare their remarks in a television studio prior to a televised debate, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

 

Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema are locked in a close battle for the Arizona Senate seat vacated by retiring empty suit Jeff Flake, and last night, they squared off in a debate that turned vicious. The polls mostly show Sinema with a margin-of-error lead (btw, I loathe Nate Silver’s smugness, his lack of self-awareness, and his political bias, but fivethirtyeight.com kicks RCP’s ass in poll coverage), but Arizona Republican registrations outnumber Democrats by nine points and one has to assume that McSally is a slight favorite to win.

The debate in Phoenix is the only face-to-face meeting of the two candidates so it was important that some stark differences were drawn.

Highlights:

Kavanaugh. McSally says she would have voted to confirm and expressed disgust with the handling of the nomination. Sinema said she was against. Polls show that Arizonans supported Kavanaugh. This goes back to the GOP registration advantage.

Campaign donations. McSally hits Sinema on donations from the owners of Backpage.com.

There has got to be nuance here that I’m not seeing.

Healthcare.

By the way, Democrat candidates have been told to make this their signature issue. I really don’t understand how letting the government take another run at controlling health care sells better today than it did in 2010, 2014, or 2016.

Border security. I doubt seriously that Sinema won any undecideds here. She claims to both support and oppose Trump’s wall. The big skirmish is over family separations. If you oppose that as an option, then Sinema is your person.

Budget and tax cuts. McSally blames spending. Sinema blames tax cuts.

Treason most vile.

This comes from a radio show Sinema co-hosted with a libertarian (anyone who goes on the air with a libertarian deserves whatever misfortune comes their way) in which her co-host made the case that he should be free to join the Taliban and Sinema agreed with his proposition.

Sinema made the comments in an appearance on libertarian Ernest Hancock’s radio show on Valentine’s Day, 2003, a day before she helped organize an anti-war rally in Phoenix’s Patriot’s Square Park that condemned “terror” perpetrated by the American military in the Middle East.

“As an individual, if I want to go fight in the Taliban army, I go over there and I’m fighting for the Taliban. I’m saying that’s a personal decision,” Hancock remarked during his show.

“Fine,” Sinema said, “I don’t care if you want to do that, go ahead.”

As we were as close to war with the Taliban at the time as we have been with anyone since World War II, this rhetorical cuteness (assuming that’s what it was) was very much out of place at a time when Ground Zero was still being cleared and troops were in action in Afghanistan.

I don’t buy the treason part, for the same reason that I think the left slinging treason charges at Trump is ridiculous, but I think it underscores the fact that Sinema is an unprincipled and un-serious person.

The Democrats were all over Twitter insisting the Sinema won. One thing I’ve discovered from years of watching debates is that the guy you’re supporting usually wins (though I still have PTSD from watching George W. Bush in his debates). Will this debate move the needle? I don’t think so. Neither side suffered a catastrophic failure. There were no gotcha moments. It was, in my view, a wash.

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