It was the first and perhaps final debate for Virginia’s two major U.S. Senate candidates Saturday, with Republican Ed Gillespie showing poise and composure against Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Warner.
The showdown had a series of bizarre moments, starting with the Virginia candidates debating 10 minutes across the border in West Virginia. Both sides met at the historic Greenbrier Resort, where the Virginia Bar Association holds its annual summer conference.
The most notable, and decidedly awkward, moment of the debate arrived within the final five minutes, when both candidates discussed the Supreme Court's recent Hobby Lobby ruling.
Gillespie said the divisive issue on contraception coverage could be avoided if birth control pills became available to adults over-the-counter.
Warner stumbled when he challenged Gillespie, saying the Republican supported “personhood legislation,” a claim that led to an exchange similar to the “sign it right now” debate with Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio in 2000. Click the clip below to view:
A major theme of Warner’s strategy was to cast Gillespie’s policies as a continuation of those seen during the George W. Bush White House. Moderator Judy Woodruff at one point asked how the Republican’s ideas would avoid declining median household incomes and other economic disparities seen in the Bush years.
Gillespie largely avoided a direct answer to the question, instead pointing to negative economic indications about job losses and wages as a consequence of the Affordable Care Act.
But Warner argued the policies espoused by Bush and Gillespie led to “two wars on a credit card,” and additional entitlement spending. The response is seen below:
Gillespie continued on the subject of the Affordable Care Act to attack Warner, with the Senator responding that the sweeping law needs to be gradually reformed, rather than repealed. Warner touted his “Copper Plan,” which would provide more affordable healthcare options for Americans. The answer left Gillespie unmoved. Click the clip below to view:
Finally, Gillespie’s lobbying career persisted as a recurring theme throughout the debate, a job which Gillespie cast as a strength. “Having advised private sector enterprises on how to get things done, with bi-partisan support can actually help me to be an effective senator,” Gillespie said.
Warner questioned whether it was right for Gillespie’s firm to accept $700,000 from Enron, a client Gillespie represented for 10 months.