Republican U.S. Senate candidate John Kennedy changed his approach Wednesday, focusing on the country's economic crisis rather than presidential politics as he faced off with Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu in the third debate of the Senate race.
The tactical switch came amid reports that national Republicans who had poured millions of dollars into TV advertising on Kennedy's behalf were pulling out of the state's ad race next week and leaving the GOP state treasurer largely on his own as he tries to keep Landrieu from a third term.
In past debates Kennedy opened by aligning himself with Republican presidential contender John McCain, but on Wednesday he described his ideas for re-establishing economic stability in the financial markets and the U.S. economy, an attempt to take control of an issue widely considered a drag on GOP candidates nationwide.
"I know many of you are scared. Don't be. Be concerned, be angry, but don't be scared," Kennedy said before a live audience at the University of New Orleans auditorium.
"We will survive this economic crisis," he said.
Landrieu, meanwhile, continued to push herself as a centrist senator who works across party lines and has brought home billions of dollars in aid to Louisiana during her 12 years in Congress, particularly since the blows of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
"Send me back to continue to fight for you, to deliver for you," she said.
Both candidates offered differing views of how to ease the national economic crisis.
Kennedy said federal officials should suspend accounting rules that financial industry representatives blame for exacerbating the problems. He said Congress should cut taxes so people have more money to spend and pay bills, should stop deficit-spending and should put limits on the nation's banks and lending firms.
"Never again can we allow a financial institution to get so big that its failure can wreck our economy," he said.
Landrieu opposed the $700 billion financial market bailout backed by the White House and approved by Congress.
But she also said Wednesday that she supports government-guaranteed loans between banks and the use of federal tax dollars to buy stocks in banks to shore up the financial system: both plans pushed by the Bush administration, using the authority and money from the bailout bill.
When he was allowed to ask Landrieu a question, Kennedy asked why she now supports elements of the bailout bill: "What made you change your mind?"
"I didn't change my mind," she replied. "I did vote against the bailout package because I didn't think there were enough safeguards for taxpayers."
Kennedy never referred to McCain on Wednesday, after two previous debates and several stump speeches in which he regularly talked of his support for the presidential nominee.