Loebsack Stands by Record, Miller-Meeks Attacks Congress
"I'll put my record up against anyone's," first-term Rep. Dave Loebsack said in Tuesday night's 2nd Congressional District debate in Cedar Rapids, as his Republican opponent, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, attacked a "do-nothing" Congress.
In closing remarks in the KCRG-sponsored debate, Miller-Meeks criticized Loebsack for voting with the Democratic leadership "98 percent of the time" and for accepting political action committee money. "America is not divided," Miller-Meeks said, "Congress is divided."
Loebsack said that despite Miller-Meeks' contention, he had never taken a no PAC money pledge, and that he listens to his constituents. "I've been back to the district every weekend, except for the times I went over to Iraq and Afghanistan," said Loebsack, citing trips to the war zones he made as a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
"You didn't listen to your constituents on the bailout bill," Miller-Meeks retorted.
The candidates clashed on Social Security and health care. Miller-Meeks favored a move toward at least partial individual accounts on both fronts. Loebsack endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's health care plan, and said any move toward privatizing Social Security was risky. "Right after he was re-elected, George Bush pushed this risky scheme, and it was rejected by the American people," he said.
Panelist James Lynch of the Cedar Rapids Gazette cut to the chase and asked about Miller-Meeks' nickname for Loebsack, "Do-Nothing Dave." "We haven't seen leadership... when it comes to flood relief or the bailout bill," said Miller-Meeks.
"As a freshman, I think I've accomplished quite a lot," said Loebsack, citing the $4.6 billion Midwestern Disaster Tax Relief Act he cosponsored with Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley that was included in the revised bailout plan.
At that point, Miller-Meeks tossed out a well-rehearsed "You're no Chuck Grassley" line.
The two-candidate format in a TV studio, with questions from journalists rather than the public, made for a more formal debate than the previous four-way debate in Coralville. Longer responses gave the major party candidates more opportunities to flesh out their proposals.
Green candidate Wendy Barth and independent Brian White participated in the earlier debate, but were not invited by KCRG. Barth liveblogged her responses to debate questions from an Iowa City coffee shop.
Loebsack took many opportunities to mention communities in the southern tier of the district. "I've been to Ottumwa 41 times," he said, citing Miller-Meeks' home town.
Loebsack also named Obama four times, and Republican nominee John McCain once. Miller-Meeks did not mention McCain's name.
Iowa Independent's Lynda Waddington contributed to this report.