Oct 6, 2014 8:10 PM
Shaheen and Brown attack each other at first debate over US Senate seat in NH
Source: NH1 Political Director - NH1.com
NORTH CONWAY - No knockout punches. No major gaffes. Or even any major arguments.
But the first debate between Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican nominee Scott Brown gave both candidates the chance to stay on message, trade jabs, and fire well tested attack lines at each other.
"She does vote with the President and has voted with him over 99% of the time," said Brown at the Mount Washington Valley Economic Council debate on Friday.
It was one of nearly a half-dozen times Brown brought up Shaheen's voting record Republicans nationwide are trying to frame November's midterm elections as a referendum on President Barack Obama. In New Hampshire, Brown and his campaign have used almost every opportunity to try and link Shaheen to the President, who's approval ratings in the Granite State are hovering in the mid to upper 30's in recent polling.
While Brown charged that Shaheen's been a "rubberstamp" for Obama, she highlighted the former senator from Massachusetts' voting record in favor of continuing subsidies for oil companies.
"Scott Brown has voted to support those big oil companies," said Shaheen, adding that "he continues to support subsides to the oil companies to the tune of over twenty billion dollars."
Both candidates made the case that they're fighting for small businesses.
"When he represented Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate, he supported big corporations," Shaheen said, adding that Brown "wasn't there for our small businesses."
Brown pushed back, saying that he's been endorsed by the U.S Chamber of Commerce and several other major nationwide business groups.
"It's easy to talk about what you're doing for small businesses, but I have their endorsement," Brown responded.
The debate also highlighted the disagreements between the two candidates on a host of issues.
Brown reiterated his opposition to Obamacare, saying "I would vote to repeal it and work with our state leaders, we have very competent leaders, to put in place something that works for us."
"Sen. Shaheen said you could keep your doctor, you could keep your hospital," Brown added."We found out that that's not true."
"When we passed the Affordable Care Act, it has given 100,000 in New Hampshire access to care who didn't have it," Shaheen responded.
"What Scott Brown is proposing would throw tens of thousands of people off their health care," Shaheen added. "Repealing it and having no plan is not the answer."
On border security and illegal immigration, Brown said that "I would secure the border. We've had votes on that. I voted for it. Senator Shaheen did not."
"I have supported comprehensive immigration reform," countered Shaheen, adding that the 2013 Senate bill she supported "would give 700 miles to a border fence. it would almost double the number of border patrols agents."
The two also traded fire over climate change and spent a couple of minutes fighting over the issue of women's reproductive rights.
Shaheen pointed out that Brown had once voted for a resolution to block funding for Planned Parenthood.
"You have to listen not just to what Scott Brown has to say about this issue with respect to pro-choice, you have to look a twhat he's done," she said.
But countered that he did vote against another bill to defund Planned Parenthood and added that "I remember fighting for women since I was five years old when my mom and myself were being abused by a drunk stepfather."
The female vote could be crucial in November's election. Recent polls indicate Shaheen with a double digit lead over Brown among women voters.
The two candidates also didn't see eye to eye over foreign policy. Shaheen said she supports the U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against ISIS, while Brown said he wouldn't take the possibility of U.S. ground troops off the table.
Brown said "the goal of ISIS is to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue and plant a flag in the White House. Our goal is to make sure that doesn't happen."
Shaheen criticized Brown, saying "what's not helpful is political grandstanding and fear mongering about the challenges that we face."
With lower turnouts than in presidential elections, midterm contests are often about which party more effectively turns out its base voters. But in New Hampshire, independent voters play a crucial role in determining the outcome. With that in mind, both candidates touted their bipartisanship.
"I was the most bipartisan senator in the United States Senate, 50-50," Brown reminded the audience numerous times.
"I've worked very closely with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle," Shaheen repeated a couple of times during the debate.
While much of the debate was serious in nature, there were some lighter questions sprinkled throughout the 90 minute showdown at the North Conway Grand Hotel. The candidates were asked about their favorite movie, what book they most recently read, what size dog they prefer (Shaheen likes bigger dogs; Brown said he likes all sizes but has smaller ones), and whether they nap (he doesn't; she doesn't have time to nap).
The debate, which was not televised on television in the Granite State, did suffer from some technical problems, with both candidates microphones malfunctioning a couple of times.
While the debate was informative, it's unlikely to change the dynamic of the race. The most recent NH1 poll by New England College indicated the race all tied up among likely voters. Other recent survey's indicated Shaheen with a single digit lead.
The faceoff between the two candidates is the first of four, including an NH1/CNN debate on Oct. 23, 2014.