Sparks fly in final debate between Claire McCaskill, Josh Hawley before midterms

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill and Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley traded verbal jabs Thursday in a fiery hour long debate in Kansas City.

The gloves came off early on, during an exchange about health care and repealing the Affordable Care Act.

“He went to Yale for law school,” McCaskill said, pointing across the stage at Hawley. “I went to Mizzou for law school, but I think I can keep up.”

Claire McCaskill and Josh Hawley

The Missouri Senate race is one of the most watched in the nation as the winner could tip the majority for either party in the U.S. Senate.

“Which just shows you this whole campaign has been a big scare tactic for Senator McCaskill,” said Hawley, the Republican challenger. “It’s about scaring voters. I say we can get down costs. So I say we can cover people with pre-existing conditions, and we could do it without Obamacare.”

“I did 50 town halls,” said McCaskill, the incumbent Democrat. “You know what people talk about the most at those town halls? Health care. You know what I want to hold onto? All of the consumer protections that he’s trying to get rid of in court.”

The debate, hosted by KMBC, covered a wide range of issues from immigration to President Donald Trump.

“I have I supported the president, you bet,” Hawley said. “I happen to think the policies he is pursuing are good for the state when you see unemployment dropping, when you see wage growth, when you see blue-collar job growth at its highest rate since 1984.”

McCaskill argued she has been able to work with Trump more than most Democrats in Washington but took issue with his style.

“That the leader of the most amazing nation in the world thinks it’s OK to lie all the time,” McCaskill said. “I mean just, lie after lie. He told the Wall Street Journal three days ago that he didn’t impose any tariffs. He needs to talk to soybean farmers in Missouri that are in the red this year.”

After the debate, both candidates believed they made a strong closing argument to Missouri voters.

“I thought this was a great debate today, a nice clear contrast,” Hawley said. “There was a lot of argument from Senator McCaskill, and I think her real argument is not with me. It's with the people of the state. And she seemed frustrated with the fact that people are unhappy with her voting record and a little defensive about it. But it's not about her and me. It's about her conflict with the people of the state.”

“Well it’s hard for me because he just kind of makes stuff up,” McCaskill said. “It is a record number of fact checks that have called his ads lies. And rather than quit saying them, he just keeps repeating them. It's hard not to get frustrated when someone keeps lying about your record.”

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