By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON – Together at last.
All four of the lead GOP candidates for Wisconsin’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race appeared at a debate Monday, marking the first time these bitter rivals have shown up to the same debate since the campaign began.
While the candidates threw verbal jabs and blasted negative advertisements and past voting records, their prescriptions for American policy could have come from the same doctor.
Each candidate tried to appear more conservative than the next. Jeff Fitzgerald, who is in last place in the latest polls, pointed to his record as Assembly speaker during last year’s tumultuous legislative session.
Mark Neumann, an early favorite who is now third in the polls, listed a who’s who of tea party darlings who have endorsed his campaign – Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.
Eric Hovde, the only candidate without a previous legislative record, said he used conservative values to help build successful businesses.
The candidates continued to debate one another on conservative pedigree, each asserting a political urgency.
“Our country is on fire,” Hovde said about attack ads from Thompson and Neumann. ”We’re heading off a financial cliff. And instead of talking about the issues that are meaningful and how to get our country turned around, since the day I got into this race I’ve had career politicians that have done nothing but attack me.”
Neumann and Thompson criticized Hovde for running a negative campaign.
On the economy, each candidate called for a reduction in spending, the national debt and deficit.
The debate turned into a game of fiscal conservative one-upmanship – a contest over which man could cut the deepest.
Thompson called for a balanced budget amendment, an 18 percent ceiling on expenditures and revenue and a 5 percent reduction in every federal agency.
Fitzgerald called for entitlement reform – putting on the table Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
“By the middle of the next decade, every dollar flowing into the federal government will have to go for just those four programs (interest on the national debt was the fourth),” he said.
Hovde said the corporate tax rate should be lowered to “at least 25 percent.”
Neumann, like his rivals, calls for the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to by conservatives as “Obamacare,” pledging he would work to kill it, if elected.
He called on the Constitution to do the heavy-lifting in cutting into the nearly $16 trillion U.S. debt.
“The Tenth Amendment all by itself would eliminate much of our budget debt, because the Tenth Amendment says if there’s not anything specifically enumerated in the Constitution as a power of the federal government, they hadn’t ought to be doing it,” Neumann said as part of his three-step process to “balance the budget and restore our economy.” Neumann’s plan also includes a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
Wisconsin’s partisan primary elections are Aug. 14.
The radio debate was sponsored by 97.5/1360 News Talk WTAQ, Green Bay.