See more of the story

In a State Fair debate Thursday, Republican political unknown Kurt Bills Thursday tried to make a dent in Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar's vastly superior popularity.

After an hour's joint appearance, hosted by Minnesota Public Radio, the Republican challenger did not manage to poke her off message but did get under her skin as he repeatedly hammered her and his fans booed her during the forum that was as heated as the 90-plus-degree day.

Although she has spent much of the campaign ignoring her opponent, she got right in the mix with him during their debate.

"We both agree we need to reduce the debt. There is absolutely no doubt about that. Do you want to go for a plan..eliminates the departments of energy, departments of education?" Klobuchar said, pausing as Bills fan cheered the budget plan he supports and she upbraids.

Bills, a first term state representative, held his own.

"This election is really not Republican vs Democrat anymore it is America vs. Washington, DC," he said to cheers.

Klobuchar, who has far more campaign cash and a well oiled campaign, fought back.

"I think our priority should be helping the middle class," she said, citing her long list of bipartisan work on health care, business competitiveness and debt reduction. She contrasted that with his bill, which went nowhere, to make gold and silver legal tender in Minnesota.

To hoots and hollers from Klobuchar's fans in the crowd, she said: "I’m sorry, Rep. Bills, but you haven’t passed one bill that even got signed into law."

The candidates have three at least two more joint appearances before Election Day.