PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Sen. John McCain and his Democratic challenger sparred over his delayed abandonment of Donald Trump at a debate Monday evening.
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick accused the 2008 Republican presidential nominee of taking too long to distance himself from Trump after he backed him for months. McCain withdrew his support for the billionaire businessman over the weekend after the release of a 2005 tape showing him making lewd comments about women.
McCain said he had openly criticized Trump at several points this year over his statements on the family of a fallen soldier, Trump’s vow not to back NATO allies in some cases and even Trump’s attacks on McCain’s own military service.
“All of those things I thought were very wrong,” McCain said. “But then when Mr. Trump attacks women, and demeans the women in our nation and our society, that is a point where I just have to part company.
Not enough, Kirkpatrick said during Monday’s debate.
“He’s been trying to run from Trump’s disparaging remarks for the last year while at the same time endorsing him more than 60 times,” Kirkpatrick said, noting other remarks about women and the disabled.
McCain slammed Kirkpatrick’s backing of President Barack Obama’s health overhaul law and said it needs be completely scrapped, arguing the idea that young people will buy insurance and their premiums help pay for older people was fatally flawed.
“We can’t fix the health system because it was based on a faulty premise,” McCain said.
Kirkpatrick acknowledged serious problems with the law but says McCain and other Republicans need to work with Democrats to help fix the problems. And she slammed McCain and other Republicans for repeatedly trying to repeal the health law instead of working to fix what problems it has.
“I’ve always said it wasn’t perfect and we needed to work together to fix it,” Kirkpatrick said. “This is an example of something we could have been doing over the last six years instead of voting to repeal it more than 60 times.”
Kirkpatrick took some shots at McCain, especially over his foreign policy positions.
“John McCain’s solution is to send in more troops — every problem we have, it’s send in more troops,” she said.
McCain pushed his opposition to the foreign policies of Obama, saying terrorism is heading to the U.S. because of the president’s policies.
McCain is seeking a sixth term in the Senate, and Kirkpatrick is trying to upset the 2008 Republican presidential nominee.
Topping Kirkpatrick’s list of criticisms is that McCain’s 33 years in Congress have changed him and that he continued to support Trump despite his insults. She has also criticized him for changing his position to fit his audience, a knock on different positions he features on his English and Spanish language websites.
“There was a day when John McCain was a maverick — he’s no longer a maverick,” she said.
The candidates also sparred over immigration, with Kirkpatrick saying her opponent had abandoned immigration reform. McCain said that’s not the case, blaming Obama for not passing legislation early in his first term when Democrats controlled Congress.
McCain, 80, served in the U.S. House before being elected to the Senate in 1986. He lost his bid for president to Obama in 2008.
Kirkpatrick, 66, represents the sprawling 1st Congressional District, which spans much of the northeastern part of the state and south to the Tucson suburbs. She has represented the district for three terms during two separate stints. She was defeated in 2010 but won the district again in 2012.
Polls show Kirkpatrick is trailing, but she noted last week that she has pulled out election wins in the past where she was expected to lose and that turning out voters, especially the state’s growing Latino population, is key to a Democratic victory.
McCain also has courted the Latino vote.
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