U.S. Senate hopefuls Lee Fisher and Rob Portman stuck close to campaign material in illustrating the differences between them in a debate held Monday night at Bowsher High School.
Mr. Fisher, a Democrat and Ohio's lieutenant governor, was blamed repeatedly by Mr. Portman for overseeing the loss of 400,000 jobs as a part of Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland's administration. Mr. Portman, a Republican former congressman and President George W. Bush's budget director and trade representative, was labeled by Mr. Fisher as a supporter of Bush trade and tax policies that resulted in hundreds of thousands of jobs sent to other countries - many from Ohio.
The two candidates are running in the Nov. 2 election to replace Republican Sen. George Voinovich, who opted not to run again.
The hour-long debate included questions on health care, extending the President Bush tax cuts, ending American reliance on foreign oil, and Supreme Court nominations. Among the sticking points in the debate were Social Security, Mr. Portman's skipping of the post-debate news conference, and Woody Hayes.
Mr. Fisher accused Mr. Portman of supporting the privatization of Social Security - a failed goal of President George W. Bush's second term.
Mr. Portman denied the claim, responding: “Another personal attack by my opponent. That's just not accurate. I do not support privatizing Social Security.”
In a news conference following the debate, Mr. Fisher said: “It sounded to me like he was backing off on his position to privatize Social Security. There is no way he can deny he was for it.”
Mr. Fisher, who is trailing in polling for this race as well as in fund-raising efforts, also said after the debate that he will make up the double-digit deficit he faces against Mr. Portman.
“We have a far more powerful and effective message,” Mr. Fisher said. “With our resources, not only financial but grassroots, you will see the gap continue to close, and you will see us win on election day. It will not be by a lot. It will be close, but those are the only elections I know how to run.”
Mr. Portman skipped the post-debate news conference, but campaign manager Rob Paduchik jumped in front of reporters to say “clearly Rob Portman won tonight's debate.”
Early during the debate, Mr. Fisher compared Ohio's economic direction under Governor Strickland and himself to legendary Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes, saying Ohio was “going down that field just like Woody Hayes did - three yards and a cloud of dust.”
Mr. Portman retorted: “I think it's an insult to Woody Hayes' incredible record at Ohio State to somehow compare him to what's happened in Ohio the last four years.”
Following the debate, Mr. Fisher said his father played high school football for Mr. Hayes at New Philadelphia.
The Ohio Newspaper Organization, of which The Blade is a member, sponsored the debate. OHNO is a cooperative of the state's eight largest daily papers, also including the Dayton Daily News, (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch, Akron Beacon Journal, Canton Repository, and (Youngstown) Vindicator.
It was broadcast live by WTVG, Channel 13, and C-SPAN, and was moderated by Channel 13‘s Diane Larson. The public was not permitted to attend.
Below is the Web chat during and after Monday's debate at Bowsher High School in Toledo.