Brown Agrees to Additional GOP Debates in New Hampshire

Following a scrum over a so-called unity pledge, Scott Brown has agreed to additional debates against his Republican challengers.

Earlier this week, New Hampshire Republican Chair Jennifer Horn sent a letter to Jim Rubens and Bob Smith, who are both challenging Brown for the GOP nomination, urging them to sign a “Unity Letter.” The letter was an effort by Horn to keep Rubens and Smith from supporting any candidate other than the winner of the Sept. 9 primary.

In the letter, Horn points out that the other candidates in New Hampshire races, including Brown, had pledged their support following the outcome of their respective races.

Horn accused both candidates of being “open to supporting a Democrat or a third-party candidate over a Republican nominee.” So far, neither Smith nor Rubens has signed the pledge. Rubens, however, said he was now “comfortable” signing the letter now that Brown has agreed to the additional debates.

Smith, on the other hand, is not budging in his refusal to sign the unity pledge.

Echoing his sentiments from previous comments, Smith maintains that he is planning on coming away from the primary with the nomination; therefore he doesn’t want to sign a pledge “immaturely.”

“I intend to win the nomination, so endorsing myself will be easy,” Smith said in a statement. “I do not prefer to speculate or engage in hypotheticals, when it comes to decisions like this.”

On Thursday, Brown accepted the challenge laid out by Rubens, agreeing to two additional debates. He will now participate in the Mt. Washington Valley Economic Council Debate, and another on WGIR radio program “New Hampshire Today.”

The GOP candidates are taping their first debate on Friday. The taping, for WMUR-TV’s “Close Up” program, will air on Sunday at 10 a.m. The second debate will be take place on Sept. 4 and will air on WMUR. Neither of these new debates agreed to by Brown have firm dates.

In a statement, Rubens said he was proud to restore the debate process in the state and that the debates are the only way to find out who is the best Republican candidate to beat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in the general election.

“More important to Republican victory than who I endorse is who the voters support. Shielding our candidates from debate leaves voters disengaged and does not prepare our nominee to defeat Jeanne Shaheen in November,” Rubens said. “That is why I felt it was in the best interest of our party to force the issue to be sure the debates happen.”

In Ruben’s initial response to the allegations in Horn’s letter, he summarized his 20 years of service to the Republican Party, for which he was recognized with the Lane Dwinell Award.

“Scott Brown has so far refused to participate in debates, public forums, or any venue that allows unscreened questions,” Rubens said in his initial response to Horn. “It would be irresponsible to pledge support to a candidate when we haven’t heard where he stands on Republican principle issues.”

In Smith’s initial response he accused Brown of not standing united with his party mates during appearances. Smith cited Brown’s failure to be able to attend an event at the Merrimack Business Association due to a “scheduling conflict” as an example of this.

“We’ve had numerous chances where all of us could have been together over and over again across the state,” Smith said in a statement.

Smith and Rubens have attacked Brown’s voting record during his time as a Massachusetts senator as the reason why he is not the strongest in the field of Republican candidates.

Most recently, Smith said that Brown only voted with the party 38 percent of the time during his term from 2010 to 2013. Smith lauded his own record of voting with the party 98 percent of the time during his 18 years in the U.S. House and Senate.

He said that, if his record is any indication, Horn should know that “under no circumstances” will he support a Democrat or third-party candidate.

The most recent poll from Vox Populi, taken on May 14, has Shaheen leading Brown by 12 points in the race. That same poll shows Brown leading the field of Republican candidates by a wide margin, with 38 percent saying they would vote for him if the primary were held at the time of the poll. Smith had the support of 13 percent of respondents, while only 9 percent would have supported Rubens. Twenty-eight percent polled responded with “undecided,” a sign that the race is still wide open.

The poll also showed that Smith would fare almost as well as Brown against Shaheen. In that hypothetical, Shaheen led Smith 45 percent to 34 percent -- Smith actually cut Shaheen’s 12-point lead against Brown down to 9 points.

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