Gilmore Attacks Warner on Bailout Plan

By Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 4, 2008

ROANOKE, Oct. 3 -- Republican James S. Gilmore III sought to revive his underdog bid for U.S. Senate on Friday night in the final scheduled debate of the campaign by repeatedly and adamantly touting his opposition to the $700 billion financial bailout package signed into law earlier in the day.

The lively 60-minute debate between Gilmore and his Democratic opponent, Mark R. Warner, might have been Gilmore's best chance to change the dynamics of the race and prove that he can compete with his popular rival.

The race has largely centered on the opponents' records as governor, but the financial rescue package provided Gilmore with a new way to emphasize the differences between them and highlight what he called his fight for the taxpayer.

Gilmore attacked Warner for his support of the emergency economic plan signed by President Bush, and he told a statewide television audience that he would have saved taxpayers' money by not handing it to "Wall Street high rollers."

"The next bailout is on the way," Gilmore said. "Who is going to stand up for the taxpayers?"

The differences between the two former governors, who have never held federal elective office, were clear in both their leadership styles and on the issues. They repeatedly interrupted each other in a series of feisty exchanges, but Gilmore was by far the more aggressive, returning to the nation's growing financial crisis at almost every answer.

"Don't talk down to me," Gilmore snapped at Warner at one point. "Don't tell me I don't understand. You don't understand."

Warner accused Gilmore of being too partisan to be an effective voice in Washington.

"The last thing Washington needs is one more over-the-top, my-way-or-the-highway, partisan ideologue in the Senate," Warner said.

The House of Representatives initially rejected the plan designed to shore up the U.S. financial system, but the House and the Senate passed it after it was revised to include $108 billion in tax breaks to businesses and families.

Warner said he supports the plan and would have voted for it, even though he would have liked to have seen some changes. He said there would be further "economic turmoil" if the bailout had not been approved and noted that both presidential candidates, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, and both Virginia senators, Republican John W. Warner and Democrat James Webb, supported the bill.

"We had to act," Warner said. "This was a time when we needed to go forward to help the taxpayers."

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