Watch the full debate here.
9:34 ET: That's all for the debate, everyone. Reporters in the studio are off to try to catch the candidates after the show. We'll report back what they have to say.
9:32 ET: Asked about policies on which they have bucked their party, Kirk cites his support for stem cell research, anti-hate crimes legislation. Giannoulias again mentions how TARP was handled.
9:31 ET: Given the opportunity to weigh in on Kirk's military record, Giannoulias pivots to Kirk's record in Washington D.C. instead.
9:30 ET: Gregory asks Kirk about inconsistencies in how he's portrayed his military record. Here's a quick rundown from the Chicago Tribune:
In June, Kirk apologized for a series of misstatements about his 21-year Navy career, including that he served in the Gulf War, that he once commanded the Pentagon war room, that he was “intelligence office of the year,” and that he came under fire while flying missions over Iraq.
"I learned a very painful and humbling lesson," Kirk says, saying that he was "careless" in describing his military record. "I am completely accountable for this."
9:28 ET: Kirk won't answer directly if he believes Giannoulias' family has direct ties to the mob, as political allies imply in one ad running in the state. But he highlights the timeline of Broadway Bank's loans.
Here's the NRSC ad that appears to connect Giannoulias to mobsters:
9:27 ET: "If I knew then what I know now, these aren't the kind of people I'd be doing business with," Giannoulias says.
Gregory presses Giannoulias to say whether he knew that the bank was lending money to criminal figures. "We didn't know the extent of that activity," Giannoulias replies.
9:23 ET: Gregory asks Giannoulias about the issue that's plagued him throughout the campaign: his family's Broadway Bank. The bank made a $22.75 million loan to a company called Riverside District Development LLC, owned in part by Tony Rezko, a Chicago businessman who was convicted on corruption charges in 2008.
Giannoulias repeats what he's said in the past: "I left day to day operations in 2005."
9:22 ET: On health care, Giannoulias says: "He wants to repeal it. I want to reform it and fix it."
9:20 ET: Giannoulias says "the health care bill was far from a perfect vehicle," but believes that it accomplished some important goals. Kirk supports repeal.
9:18 ET: Gregory asks Kirk if he supports Rep. Paul Ryan's draconian spending cut proposals. "I have my own cuts," Kirk replies. He proposes lawsuit reform, sale of large parts of the Tennessee Valley Authority as examples.
9:16 ET: Giannoulias: "we're going to have to take our medicine" on spending cuts. He says he would have voted against the omnibus spending bill. "This is where the president made a mistake."
9:16 ET: Giannoulias describes Kirk's assertion that he is a fiscal hawk the biggest "whopper" he's told turning the campaign.
9:14 ET: In 2004, Kirk was part of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership, which argued that permanent across-the-board tax cut extensions were simply unaffordable.
9:13 ET: "We avoided a second Great Depression," Giannoulias says of the stimulus bill. He says that the Recovery Act helped save "millions" of jobs.
9:12 ET: Gregory asks Giannoulias if he will push for more stimulus funds if elected: "If more stimulus means more tax cuts to small business .. I am for it."
9:10 ET: Giannoulias tries to paint himself as the outsider in the race: "We've forgotten what it's like on Main Street" ... "Congressman Kirk has been in Washington for 20 years."
9:09 ET: "The stimulus has largely failed," Kirk says. He describes Congress as "viciously anti-business."
9:08 ET: Kirk describes himself as "a fiscal hawk" -- and he has a chart in hand to illustrate the depth of the national debt.
9:07 ET: First question goes to Giannoulias on Obama: "I think he's done everything he can to help turn this economy around," he says. But adds that some policies, especially TARP, were not "perfect." TARP should have included more accountability. 'I think that was a missed opportunity"
9:06 ET: There are no set rules for Meet the Press debates -- host David Gregory will ask about all the issues. The debate will be 30 minutes long.
9:03 ET: This is a personal fight for the president, who held the seat that his friend and Illinois state treasurer Giannoulias is hoping to win. Obama has campaigned for him twice in as many months; Michelle Obama is slated to appear on his behalf this week.
9:01 ET: This is the first formal debate between the two Illinois Senate candidates. They will meet two more times before Election Day.
9:00 ET: We're on the air.
8:45 a.m. ET: Good morning! The two men vying for Barack Obama's former Senate seat are debating this morning on NBC's Meet the Press, and we'll be live-blogging the show here on First Read.
Recent polls show a tight race between Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias. Giannoulias has faced questions about his family's bank, which was seized by federal regulators in April. Kirk has come under fire for embellishing his military record. Read more about the race here.
Stay tuned for the debate, which starts at 9 a.m. ET.