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September 28, 2008

Udall on the defensive in MTP debate

There were fireworks on the NBC “Meet the Press” set Sunday, and it wasn’t just coming from Steve Schmidt and David Axelrod.

Tom Brokaw hosted a feisty Senate debate between Colorado Senate candidates Mark Udall (D) and Bob Schaffer (R), where the two rivals sparred over the bailout plan, fiscal discipline and the war in Iraq. But the debate was dominated by Schaffer’s aggressive attacks on Udall over his past votes on banking industry regulations, which seemed to catch the Democratic congressman a bit off guard.

Schaffer attacked Udall for voting against legislation that would have increased oversight on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And even though Schaffer served in Congress from 1996-2002, he portrayed himself as an outsider who wasn’t responsible for the Republican-led Congresses’ excesses.

“Those of us who've been back home in the private sector working hard for the last six years are sick and tired of these kinds of votes that make all of the rest of us pay,” Schaffer said in one exchange.

Udall barely got a word in edgewise as Schaffer spent the first half of the debate attacking him over economic issues. It was a contrast from the tenor of the campaign, where Schaffer has frequently been on the defensive over his past employment with an energy firm, and a controversial trip taken to the Northern Mariana Islands arranged by Jack Abramoff.

For his part, Udall portrayed Schaffer for supporting deregulation policies that favored the wealthy.

"I would tell you what we can't do, though, and that's return to the policies that Congressman Schaffer supported and supports today, which are tax breaks for CEOs, tax breaks for companies that offshore jobs, tax breaks for the wealthiest among us," Udall said

The other big headline from the debate: Udall said it would be “helpful” if ethically-embattled House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel stepped down. His admission gave House Republicans more ammunition to pressure Democrats to return his campaign contributions.

Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) is the only House Democrat to return campaign money from Rangel.