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The Times-Picayune - Senate Hopefuls Turn to Money Matters in Debate

News Article

Location: Baton Rouge, LA

They disagree on how to fix financial crisis

By Jan Moller

Seeking to revive his campaign's flagging fortunes, Republican John Kennedy turned his focus to the nation's sagging economy Wednesday as he and Democrat Mary Landrieu met for the third of four scheduled debates in their race for the U.S. Senate.

The candidates also traded barbs on campaign fundraising, health care, the war in Iraq, energy policy and congressional earmarks during their hourlong debate at the University of New Orleans.

Kennedy, the state treasurer making his second bid for a Senate seat after finishing in third place while running as a Democrat four years ago, presented himself as the candidate best-equipped to handle the current economic crisis. He laid out a four-point plan consisting of tax cuts and spending discipline combined with increased regulation of the financial markets.

"Be concerned, be angry, but don't be scared," Kennedy said. "Our economy is sick. It has a really bad case of the flu."

Landrieu, who is seeking her third term in the Senate, continued to stress her growing seniority in the upper chamber of Congress and her ability to deliver federal dollars for hurricane protection, colleges and universities, and disaster relief.

"I'm seeking re-election based on a record of effective leadership, of accomplishments, of independence, of always putting the state first," Landrieu said.

The debate was co-sponsored by WDSU-TV, the League of Women Voters of New Orleans and the National Council of Jewish Women.

--- Seizing on economy ---

Landrieu was viewed as the Senate's most vulnerable Democratic incumbent heading into the current election cycle. But polling in the race has shown Kennedy trailing Landrieu by double digits, and Wednesday brought reports that the National Republican Senatorial Committee has decided to pull its advertisements from Louisiana starting next week.

Facing increasingly long odds, Kennedy appeared to signal a tactical shift heading into the final 20 days before the Nov. 4 election. In recent debates, Kennedy has wasted few opportunities to tie his candidacy to that of Sen. John McCain, the GOP presidential nominee who is expected to carry Louisiana next month. But McCain's name never came up during Wednesday's debate, nor did that of Democratic standard-bearer Sen. Barack Obama.

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