NEWTON, Mass. — Michael Capuano and Stephen Pagliuca were in the middle of a debate broadcast by NECN and WBUR. Capuano was explaining that if Congress keeps the restrictions on funding of abortion, he would vote against the health care bill. Then Pagliuca jumped in.
“I will not vote to send poor women back to the alleys of America,” Capuano said.
“Michael, Michael, Michael — hold on,” Pagliuca blurted.
“Hang on, Steve. Let me finish,” Capuano said.
“That’s ridiculous. That’s like death panels,” Pagliuca said.
“Are we going to get into this again, Steve? Are we going to be able to move forward?” Capuano asked.
“You can’t say things like that. That’s ridiculous,” Pagliuca responded.
“I can’t pay for it like you can,” Capuano shot back.
“That’s not true, and that’s ridiculous,” Pagliuca said.
“I mean, am I going to be able to finish, or are we going to have this childish going back and forth again?” Capuano asked sharply.
They would be having the back and forth again.
Pagliuca has been trying to differentiate himself from Capuano and Attorney General Martha Coakley by saying that he would vote for any legislation that expands health insurance coverage, whether it restricts funding of abortions or not. Pagliuca pounced once again when Capuano was talking about the days before abortion became legal.
“We all know doctors that lost their licenses who did these things,” Capuano said.
“That’s Roe v. Wade,” Pagliuca interjected. “This isn’t a reversal of Roe v. Wade.”
“Excuse me, Steve,” Capuano said.
“You’re confusing the issue,” Pagliuca said.
“No, it’s not a confusing of the issue,” Capuano responded.
“This is death panels. You’re going to be the Sarah Palin of the Democratic Party,” Pagliuca said, as Capuano laughed.
Pagliuca and Capuano also mixed it up over regulation of banks. Pagliuca opposes regulations that would limit the size of banks.
“You don’t need to collapse banks,” Pagliuca said.
“Nobody’s trying to collapse them,” Capuano replied. “We’re simply trying to limit them and spread the wealth. That’s the problem. You believe in concentrated wealth — which I don’t blame you, concentrated wealth in your life is a little bit more than in any of the others that I know. I respect that — but I believe in a spreading of the wealth.”
“I don’t believe in demagoguery and these kinds of attacks,” Pagliuca said.
“I do believe in spreading the wealth around to the general public,” Capuano shot back.
“It’s another personal attack,” Pagliuca protested. “If that’s your methodology, then let’s not even talk about anything.”
“It’s not a personal attack,” Capuano retorted.
Throughout this debate, broadcast statewide, the front-runner, Coakley, pretty much sailed through while the men in a statistical tie for second place argued. But at one point, Coakley, too, got into a scrape with Pagliuca. She was in the middle of explaining that she believes both the federal government and the states should regulate the financial industry.
“You say this is what you can’t do, and if you violate it, it can be enforced at the state level,” Coakley said.
“I thought your plan is state-by-state,” Pagliuca interjected. “That’s what it says. You said that you don’t want the national government to do it. It’s in the Boston Globe. You said you don’t want the national government to do it. You want it to be state by state. States’ rights should have primacy over this.”
The candidates were also asked whether they would reveal who gives money to them. It’s already public information, but City Year co-founder Alan Khazei wanted the others to post it on their Web sites.
“I plead guilty to getting money from Leonard Nimoy,” Khazei said. “I’m a Star Trek fan. Live long and prosper.”
The candidates split on how to pay for the war in Afghanistan. Capuano said he would actually vote to cut off funding for the war. Coakley and Pagliuca said they opposed a war tax, but Khazei said he’d support it.
This was the men’s last big chance to make an impression before a large audience and shake up Coakley’s front-runner status. To achieve that Wednesday night, Capuano and Pagliuca went after each other.
But sometimes, when two candidates do that, they end up hurting each other and a third candidate benefits. With the primary next week, they’ll find out soon enough whether the rumble was a good tactic.