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Down Ballot: Debates in VA and MT

In what has become one of the closest Senate races in the country, Tim Kaine (D) and George Allen (R) squared off last night in their fourth debate, per MSNBC’s Michael LaRosa. As in their previous meetings, this debate highlighted differences between the two candidates on matters of policy -- but remained largely gentile and polite in nature. 

LaRosa notes that Allen tried to remind voters more than once that Kaine was a national partisan as the head of the Democratic National Committee.  But Kaine was prepared and reiterated that his role was similar to Allen's position as Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee from 2003-2005. Kaine, meanwhile, knocked Allen for his aggressive partisanship and ridicule of Virginia's former senior Sen. John Warner and his "Gang of 14" devoted to compromise.  "My opponent said that it was his job to knock Democrats soft teeth down their whiny throats," Kaine said. He warned not to send a partisan Allen back to the Senate.

Two-thousand miles away in Billings, Montana, incumbent Sen. Jon Tester (D) and his challenger U.S. Congressman Denny Rehberg (R) met for the first time in a much testier exchange. But it was President Obama who became the focal point of this debate, LaRosa adds. 

Rehberg tied Tester to Obama every chance he could, repeating the line "My opponent as voted with Barack Obama 95% of the time," over and over. "He stands with President Obama, I stand with the people of Montana," Rehberg continued.  "The point is Congressman, you're running against me not him," Tester responded.  "You had your opportunity to run against him, but you chose me." 

When Tester was questioned about his votes against various free trade agreements, Rehberg highlighted his support for them. But Tester saw an opening and tried to turn the tables. "Excuse me, congressman. But Barack Obama supported all of those trade agreements," Tester said.  "It sounds like you stood with President Obama much of the time," he continued.

Tester and Rehberg will meet again on October 14th at Flathead Valley Community College.