Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Scott Brown sparred over the Hobby Lobby case and terrorism in their first debate on Oct. 5, just one month before the general election.
The debate was hosted by the Mount Washington Valley Economic Council. It would have been the second debate for Shaheen’s seat had she accepted an invitation for a Sept. 29 debate at Franklin Pierce University.
During the event, Brown continued his “99 percent of the time” strategy, in reference to Shaheen’s voting record with President Obama. Since throwing his hat into the ring, Brown has centered his message on linking Shaheen to the president, who has low job approval numbers in New Hampshire polls – a 38 percent approval rating in a Sept. 15 CNN poll.
The debate ran the gauntlet of the major policy differences between the candidates, and where the opponents did agree there were no surprises.
Both did not support legalizing marijuana for recreational use, but Brown went as far as to say that medical marijuana should be approved by the Food and Drug Administration before it hits dispensary shelves. They both also supported U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, but Brown seized the opportunity to tell attendees that Shaheen has “failed” to take appropriate action against terrorists in the past. He pointed to a bill he sponsored while a Massachusetts senator that would have pulled the passports of American-born terrorists.
The 2010 bipartisan Terrorist Expatriation Act was co-sponsored at the time by Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman (I).
“She says now that she wants to take away their passports but she’s had many opportunities,” Brown said, referencing the 2010 bill as well as a more recent one proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) yet blocked by Senate Democrats.
Shaheen responded by saying that while serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Brown missed key meetings focusing on Middle East extremism and immigration policy.
“We need to focus on our immigration system and the way to do it is not to refuse to go to hearings on border security,” she said.
Shaheen also tagged Brown for his lack of support in closing corporate tax loopholes and his Wall Street ties.
“He continues to oppose closing loopholes that not only allow companies to ship jobs overseas but that also incentivize them to do that,” she said.
Democrats have put Brown’s business ties under the microscope so far in this election. The Senate Majority PAC released an ad last month hammering Brown over his role as director with the Massachusetts-based Kadant, a company that reportedly outsourced jobs to China and Mexico after closing a manufacturing facility in Louisiana.
During the debate the two also butted heads on women’s rights issues. Shaheen pointed to a Brown-sponsored bill that would have allowed companies to opt out of providing coverage for contraception-related medications, such as birth control pills, based on the owner’s moral objections.
Brown said he sponsored the bill because he doesn’t believe companies with such objections should be required to provide coverage. He went on to say that the Hobby Lobby case proves that the Supreme Court agrees with him.
“Why was there even a Hobby Lobby case? It’s because of Obamacare, where they mandated that certain actions be taken,” Brown said. “To think that I don’t support women’s rights and ability to get contraception is just a false premise.”
Brown went on to point out that he co-sponsored the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2010. He also said he had been fighting for women’s rights since he was 5 years old and spent childhood years defending his mother against his drunk stepfather’s violence.
Brown has not polled well among women thus far in the race.
The CNN poll found Brown’s support among women to be just 42 percent, compared to Shaheen’s 54 percent. However, Brown did poll better among women in that poll than Shaheen did among men, which was just 41 percent.
The debate comes after Shaheen declined to participate not only in the Franklin Pierce debate but to a host of others that Brown had accepted. Kristen Nevious, director of the Franklin Pierce University’s Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communications, said that she had heard that Shaheen would not attend the debate the day prior to the event.
Shaheen has also declined to take part in debates hosted by WGIR-AM and at another hosted by the Manchester and Nashua Chambers of Commerce.
The New Hampshire GOP still has a ticker on the main page of their website reporting the number of days Shaheen has gone without hosting a town hall – closing in on 800.
Declining the invitations has only added credence to the GOPs claims that Shaheen is ducking Brown and, by virtue, not being forthright with the New Hampshire voters. In a statement, New Hampshire GOP Chairman Jennifer Horn called Shaheen’s turn-downs “outrageous.”
“Sen. Shaheen has avoided town hall meetings in New Hampshire, skipped critical committee hearings about national security in Washington, and now she is trying to duck debates,” she said.