Senate Candidates in Penn. Square Off in Debate

Federal spending, Medicare focus of arguments


In their one-and-only debate, Senate candidates Tom Smith and Bob Casey differed sharply over federal spending Friday, with Smith saying he'd close the Department of Energy and "look at" shutting the Department of Education, and Casey charging that, in his zeal to find cuts, Smith would "end Medicare as we know it."

Casey, the incumbent Democrat who has seen his polling lead dwindle under relentless Smith attacks calling him "Senator Zero," came out firing in the opening moments of the debate, taped at 6ABC and scheduled to air Sunday on TV stations statewide.

"My opponent, Tom Smith, thinks we should take away the guaranteed benefit of Medicare and change it, either by giving someone a voucher, or changing it more radically," Casey said.

Smith, the Republican nominee, protested that he would not touch either Medicare or Social Security for older workers. But he said program changes might be needed to keep both programs going long-term. He said congressional Republicans have shown courage in even tackling the hot-button issue, while Casey and other Democrats have not.