Richard Cordray and Mike DeWine didn’t hold back in their first debate of the governor’s race. At one point, DeWine declared about his opponent: “You’ve been a failure at every job you have ever had.” Wow. Cordray returned to DeWine the “career politician,” who has spent almost all of the past 42 years in public office, the suggestion, too, that the other guy has been a failure.

The debate on Wednesday evening at the University of Dayton included roundhouse punches in the form of “unbelievable” and “totally outrageous.” Cordray and DeWine ranged from the opioid crisis to ECOT, the collapsed online charter school, from the legalization of marijuana to how each feels the other performed as state attorney general.

Yet, all in all, the debate was more helpful than not, though, as usual, the format would benefit from less reliance on one-liners and more attention to fleshing out their many differences.

Take the matter of the Medicaid expansion, a leading achievement for Gov. John Kasich and Ohio yet still an irritant to many Republicans at the Statehouse. It made a fleeting debate appearance. DeWine appeared pleased as he portrayed himself as the reformer, pledging to make the expansion “better,” citing Cordray as a friend of the status quo.

Until recently, DeWine wanted little to do with the expansion. He viewed the extension of health coverage to those adults up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level as not sustainable given state finances. Then, in July, he changed his mind. That is a good thing. Nearly 700,000 Ohioans are better off as a result of the expansion.

How would DeWine make improvements? In the debate, he talked about taking steps to help recipients become healthier and thus curb health care costs. This hardly rates as a breakthrough. The Kasich team has been following such a course. The concept is part of the Affordable Care Act. What also is familiar is the lack of detail from DeWine, echoing Republicans who want change in this area but fail to define precisely the course it would take.

DeWine sees improvement, too, in setting a work requirement. That may sound reasonable, the Republican legislative majorities having pushed the governor to seek federal permission. Yet it involves a small sliver of participants, the savings thus relatively small. Those affected likely would be left without health coverage, their lives made much harder.

Bear in mind, most who qualify for the expansion already work, and those who do not work typically are disabled, care for a family member or attend school. What the state has learned is that the expansion promotes work, recipients finding the coverage helps in keeping a job and searching for employment.

The Medicaid expansion has reduced the share of uninsured among Ohioans ages 19 to 64 and living at or just above the poverty level from 32.4 percent in 2012 to 12.8 percent today. The expansion has been crucial in addressing the opioid crisis, not to mention helping many treat mental illness and lead more productive lives.

If Mike DeWine would mess with this success, he needs to be more forthcoming with Ohioans about his plans and what he would do to deal with the consequences.

Beacon Journal/Ohio.com editorial board