Dean Phillips and Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN-03) finally met for their second debate Friday, but each spent most of his airtime arguing over the other’s television ads.
MPR’s moderator began the debate by questioning Paulsen on one of his ads that criticized Phillips as a “hypocrite” for his stance on health care. According to Paulsen’s campaign, Phillips has claimed that health care is a “moral right,” but has failed to offer care to his own employees.
“Well, number one, it’s an area where Dean’s been hypocrite,” Paulsen responded, accusing Phillips of lying about the issue.
“I’ve got to say, I’m amazed that the congressman would start this debate with that contention because KARE 11 and WCCO both said the same thing, which is that it is false, and you know it. I provided health care to every single full-time employee at every organization that I’ve ever managed, that I’ve ever built,” Phillips responded.
Straying from the cordial nature of their first debate, the two candidates for Minnesota’s Third Congressional District repeatedly slung accusations at one another and insisted that their own versions of the story were correct.
For instance, Phillips at one point suggested the Paulsen’s “advertisements are false” and have been fact checked to prove so, but Paulsen responded by stating that “that’s actually a lie.”
Such exchanges dominated Friday’s debate, including one instance in which the candidates discussed a recent ad that compares Paulsen to Bigfoot since he is allegedly rarely seen in public. Phillips called the ad a “hallmark of our campaign,” though Paulsen responded by listing the hundreds of public appearances he has made since announcing his bid for reelection.
One particularly tense moment of the debate came when Paulsen attacked his opponent’s campaign for airing an ad that mocks one of Paulsen’s congressional staffers with “a speech impediment who was going to a speech therapist.”
Phillips responded by plainly stating that the ad was “the truth,” which Paulsen called “pathetic.”
When the candidates were finally provided an opportunity to address the issues, Phillips criticized his opponent for voting in line with President Donald Trump 98 percent of the time, while Paulsen grew visibly frustrated when the Democrat refused to answer whether he would have voted in favor of the new tax bill.
“I would’ve worked hard to ensure that this economic expansion benefits the people that need it the most, not by favoring those who need it the least,” Phillips responded, leading Paulsen to accuse him of dodging the question.
The debate concluded with a discussion of gun control, which Paulsen used as an opportunity to tout the “several” gun laws he has helped pass this year, including one that lifted the ban on gun-violence research.
“I think we should point out that the NRA just recently elevated Congressman Paulsen’s grade from an A- to an A. My grade is an F, and by the way, I’m a firearms owner myself. Congressman Paulsen has taken over $20,000 from the NRA,” Phillips added, saying he is for “gun-violence prevention” not “gun control.”
Friday’s debate lasted just under an hour and was aired live on MPR. According to the latest polls, Paulsen trails Phillips 44 percent to 49 percent.
Watch the full debate:
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