"The federal government's involvement in education is important for our country," McCaskill said.
Akin countered: "Claire McCaskill seems to think this is a crisis if you don't have everything done by the federal government."
Akin said the federal school lunch program could be administered by states, quipping that the food probably wouldn't taste any different to students.
Asked later if there were any misconceptions the candidates wanted to clear up, McCaskill said it was wrong for Akin to imply she is not willing to stand up to Obama. She said she opposed some of his energy policies and had wanted him to quickly approve the Keystone XL pipeline to bring oil from Canada to the U.S.
"I don't even agree with my mother 98 percent of the time, much less the president of the United States," she said.
On a topic that hadn't previously received much attention in their race, McCaskill said she supports all forms of stem cell research. Akin said he opposes human embryonic stem cell research, because he believes life begins at conception.
Quarterly financial reports released earlier Thursday show Akin raised $1.6 million from mid-July through the end of September and had about $553,000 remaining in his account at the start of October. That significantly trailed McCaskill, who raised $5.5 million during the period and still had about $2.1 million left in her campaign account.
More Election News:
- Romney, Obama Near $1 Billion Milestone
- GOP Tied to Voter Fraud in Virginia
- Study: Blacks Feel Less Empowered Under Obama
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