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Debates That Could Matter Debates That Could Matter

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Debates That Could Matter

While most attention focuses on the presidential debates, across the country Senate and House candidates have been facing off as well. Most of the debates fail to significantly -- or even minimally -- impact the races. But a few debates have featured a moment that altered the race dynamics, and could even be a deciding factor in a contest. With the final White House debate tonight, here's our look at a few debates in down-ballot races which may actually matter:

-- Arizona's Senate debate last week: Former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona has made it a race with GOP Rep. Jeff Flake in GOP-leaning Arizona, emphasizing his resume (purple hearts earned in Vietnam, SWAT team leader, Surgeon General under a Republican president...) and his independence. But Flake hit Carmona with a tough ad recently featuring the Democrat's former female boss talking about his "issues with anger, with ethics, and with women." Carmona has since been defending his record with woman. So with that as a backdrop, his comment in Thursday's debate that the male moderator was "prettier" than Candy Crowley could be a big problem, and has gotten huge amounts of attention. He has apologized, but just over two weeks from the election this places significant focus on an issue where he's already been playing defense.

-- The Berman-Sherman showdown: The member-vs.-member race in California's San Fernando Valley has been expensive -- and nasty. That nastiness boiled over at a debate in which Rep. Brad Sherman, during a heated exchange with Rep. Howard Berman, put his arm around him and said, "You want to get into this?" The two men were then separated by an officer. Berman's campaign has portrayed the incident as Sherman challenging his fellow congressman to a fight, releasing an ad last week called "Unhinged" that used footage of the moment.

-- Thursday's Walsh/Duckworth debate: Okay, so this moment came when Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., was talking to reporters post-debate rather than during the debate itself: Walsh told reporters that advances in science and technology meant there was no need for a life of the mother exception in abortion laws. The remark, which he semi-walked back the next day, created a huge firestorm and was reminiscent of Rep. Todd Akin's, R-Mo., comment that "legitimate rape" rarely causes pregnancy.

(And check out our rundowns of memorable moments from Senate and House debates this fall).

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