Duking it out in Duluth

An often noisy crowd estimated to number 1,500 to 1,800 attended an early morning debate Tuesday between Minnesota's 8th Congressional District 18 term incumbent Democrat James Oberstar and Republican challenger Chip Cravaack.   According to a local TV station's site.

Cravaack supporters wore blue "vote chip" t-shirts and tended to be older and seemed angry and impatient with Oberstar.

Oberstar supporters seemed younger and tightly organized with strong union and traditional DFL ties.

In what sounds like a Tea Party versus mainstream Democrat conventional wisdom confrontation, Oberstar strongly defended his votes for ObamaCare, Cap and Trade and stimulus spending, claiming that the federal government has created many jobs in Minnesota.  Military veteran, airline pilot and first time candidate Cravaack made his first priority the repeal of ObamaCare as a job killer and vowed to be for a smaller government.  

"Did the stimulus bill work? No,'' Cravaack said. "The United States government does not create jobs.''

Cravaack said the government would create more jobs by cutting business taxes.

"Get rid of the regulations and restrictions,'' Cravaack said, adding that "I trust you with your money. He (Oberstar) trusts government with your money

On the topic of climate change, Oberstar accused Cravaack supporters of being in a "flat earth society."  According to the account Cravaack's communication' director e-mailed to supporters, Obestar snapped "If you want clean water, join the Supreme Court." when the issue of his sponsorship of the America's Commitment to Clean Water Act was raised. That bill would greatly expand the power of the federal government, so Oberstar's remarks seems to be a reference to the Supreme Court ruling several years ago that the EPA lacked authority for regulations effecting many wetlands, a situation Oberstar seeks to correct.   

This was initially billed as the only debate between the candidates. but another has reportedly been scheduled for 7 pm Friday at a community college in Grand Rapids.  That makes me suspect that Oberstar's internal polls are not showing his usual 20 point lead.  If Bill Clinton suddenly decides to fly into Hibbing, we'll know the situation looks desperate for the long time incumbent.