(CNN) - Mobster and crook references aside, the Illinois Senate debate between Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk covered substantive policy issues, from their positions on the bank bailouts to the effectiveness of the stimulus bill.
The war in Afghanistan and the events leading up to the Iraq war were also a key issue in the debate, which was held at the Chicago Club in downtown Chicago.
Questioned on his vote for the Iraq war, Kirk, a five-term Congressman, criticized the way intelligence gathering was handled. On reports that Iraq was pursuing nuclear weapons, Kirk said, "I think that we were lied to in the end, by the deputy director of national intelligence absolutely." Questioned on the point, Kirk backtracked, saying the intelligence was wrong.
Giannoulias pounced on Kirk's answer, saying, "He actually convinced other members of Congress that he knew to a moral certitude" that the Iraq war was necessary.
Kirk and Giannoulias quibbled over the Troubled Asset Relief Program, more commonly known as the bank bailout. Kirk, a supporter, said he was "proud" to have voted for it; Giannoulias said he would have wanted greater oversight and would not have supported the bailout program as it was presented. Kirk used the moment to paint Giannoulias as "immature," emphasizing the need to recognize how important the legislation was even though there were drawbacks.
Kirk went on the offensive when it came to the stimulus program, criticizing the limits on project funding and the amount of debt incurred as a result of the bill. But Giannoulias hit back, calling Kirk's position "remarkable" for someone who "voted for every single one of the Bush budgets," which, Giannoulias said, "doubled our national debt."
But, policy discussions aside, some of the campaign bickering and personal jabs came out full force early in the debate.
Giannoulias had to fend off attacks on his family's bank, a theme Kirk has carried throughout the campaign. As in previous meetings, Kirk drew from his pocket a list of unsavory individuals to whom, he said, the bank gave loans.
But Giannoulias was prepared, taking from his pocket his own list of unsavory individuals - this one a compilation of people who admitted to corruption charges and have at some point donated to Kirk's election campaigns. Kirk defended himself saying any money from such individuals was returned.
The most recent polls of likely voters in Illinois indicate the race to win President Obama's old Senate seat is deadlocked.