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Casey, Barletta duel over guns, immigration in 2nd debate

Written by Marc Levy/The Associated Press | Oct 26, 2018 5:10 PM
Barletta Casey second debate.jpg

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-PA, right, and Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, left, are prepped by floor manager Patty Cobb before their second debate, Friday Oct. 26, 2018, in the studio of KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

(Pittsburgh) -- The second and final debate in Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate race drew Democratic Sen. Bob Casey and his Republican challenger into several sharp exchanges over guns, immigration and the economy, as U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta looks to gain ground.

Casey repeatedly referred to Barletta as a "typical Washington politician." On the question of the economy, Barletta repeatedly challenged Casey to explain why President Donald Trump might not be responsible for what he calls "the greatest economy in our lifetime."

At another point, the moderator at KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh pressed Barletta to explain where he stands on the firearms issues, including expanding background checks or banning assault weapons.

More: Listen to interviews with Barletta and other candidates

Early in the debate, Barletta turned a question on raising minimum wage to the economy, after Casey contended that Trump inherited a fast-growing economy and made a plug for a large middle-class tax cut.

Barletta insisted this year's economic growth is because of Trump's tax-cutting bill and rollback of regulations, and challenged Casey to explain how a policy under President Barack Obama could have contributed to it.

"I don't know what policy it was in eight years that could have caused that, that waited, hibernated for eight years and all of a sudden showed its head when our administration came into power," Barletta said.

Casey countered that Obama and a Democratic Congress dragged the country out of recession and back to health, cutting the unemployment rate in half under Obama, without help from Republicans. For Barletta to suggest "this idea, that somehow the magic was created, starting in January 2017, is a big lie and everybody knows it."

Pressed for an answer, Casey cited the 2009 recovery act that the Democratic Congress passed under Obama.

In any case, Barletta's contention that the economy is the greatest ever is overstating the extent of U.S. economic gains. In fact, the economy is nowhere close to historic bests. Economists have also warned that U.S. growth is largely fueled by government borrowing, as the federal deficit rises because of Trump's tax cuts, and is thus unlikely to be sustainable after a few quarters.

The hourlong debate taped at KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh was to be broadcast Friday night and made available to other stations later.

Casey, 58, of Scranton, is seeking a third six-year term in Nov. 6's election. Barletta, 62, is a fourth-term congressman from Hazelton.

Barletta has badly lagged Casey in fundraising and polls, making it a low-profile race in a state Trump won in 2016 while control of the Senate is being waged in perhaps a dozen other states.

Casey is a critic of Trump's tax-cutting law and immigration policies and opposed his Supreme Court nominees. Barletta is one of Trump's biggest allies on Capitol Hill, and is endorsed by the president.

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