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Blumenthal And Alpert Debate
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Two Democrats who want to replace U S Senator Christopher Dodd met for a debate Monday night at the University of Hartford.  WNPR’s Jeff Cohen reports.

Merrick Alpert knows he’s the underdog, and he decided to debate like one – consistently taking aim at Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, calling him a litigious incrementalist who has chased away jobs with lawsuits and who would keep the country at war.

“I came here tonight to begin with to show you what a real, live underdog looks like.”

They were strong words from a man who is politically weak, according the latest Quinnipiac University poll from January.  It showed Alpert had just four percent of the state’s Democrats on his side.  For his part, Blumenthal boasted his service to the state his experience enforcing its laws.  Speaking of his plans to better regulate the financial markets, Blumenthal said he was the candidate who could get things done.

“Those kinds of fundamental reforms, I believe, can be achieved if we elect someone who can achieve results. Not just talk about it, but achieve results.”

The two men took various questions, doing their best to differentiate themselves on issues on which they largely agreed: they both said the country needs more financial regulation, it needs more jobs, it needs sanctions on Iran, and it doesn’t need President George W. Bush’s tax cuts.

But they differed, too.  Blumenthal wants to gradually move to normalize relations with Cuba; Alpert wants relations normalized now. Blumenthal supports the president’s commitment to the war in Afghanistan, while Alpert wants most troops withdrawn now.  
Alpert used the word “incrementalism” to define the difference between the men on that issue and others, describing himself as a man who would act quickly as opposed to a man who wouldn't.  That would be Blumenthal.

“You know, for me, incrementalism is not necessarily a dirty word. It means taking a problem, step by step, achieving results, step by step, getting it done.  Producing and delivering.  That’s what I’ve done for 20 years.”

“I think incrementalism is a dirty word. I think incremenaltism is the fundamental difference between the two of us. And to be perfectly blunt, incrementalism is what’s destroying this nation.”

Blumenthal ended the evening focusing on his family and his experience. Alpert ended by saying he wants a progressive Democrat to win the seat and he doesn’t want Republican Linda McMahon to buy it.

Tonight, McMahon and fellow Republicans Rob Simmons and Peter Schiff will face off in the second of two U.S. Senate debates.

For WNPR, I'm Jeff Cohen.