On the back of a CNN/ORC poll gauging the race, the New Hampshire Senate candidates faced off in a debate for the news giant – their second debate in just three days.
The Oct. 23 poll reinforced that the race between Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Scott Brown is a true toss-up with less than two weeks before the general election. Neither of the candidates broke the 50 percent mark among likely voters, as Shaheen garnered 49 percent of the respondents’ support while Brown had the support of 47 percent of respondents.
Among registered voters Shaheen holds just a 6 percent lead, 50 percent to 44 percent. The poll also continued to show President Barack Obama’s approval ratings are abhorrently low, with 39 percent of likely voters approving of the way Obama is handling his job.
The Real Clear Politics polling average puts Shaheen up at a 2.2 point average, a clear toss-up.
Throughout the campaign Brown has linked his opponent to the president, citing a Congressional Quarterly report that shows the incumbent voted with Obama 99 percent of the time.
However, during the CNN debate, Shaheen used findings from that same report against her Republican opponent, saying that while a Massachusetts senator he voted with Obama 78 percent of the time.
Brown said that he was “the most bipartisan senator in the United States Senate” during his tenure and that he voted for good policies, not only with his party.
“When the president does something right I’ll support him,” Brown said. “When he doesn’t do something right I will make sure to let him know….If you want gridlock then send Sen. Shaheen down there. If you want somebody who is an independent problem solver… then I’m your guy.”
Shaheen was asked by host Wolf Blitzer why the president has not joined her on the campaign trail, being that she has offered him her support, evidenced by her voting record.
“The fact is, he’s busy in Washington,” Shaheen said. “I think he’s exactly where he needs to be.”
Brown said the reality is that Shaheen doesn’t want him to campaign with her because of his unpopularity in New Hampshire.
“The reason that she does not want the president here is because he cannot explain why he pushed on us a healthcare bill that is destroying business right now,” he said. “He apologized for pushing that. Sen. Shaheen has yet to explain why she was the deciding vote.”
Though the candidates were asked the usual questions about the hot-button issues, namely ISIS, Ebola, immigration and border security, they were also peppered with questions on some new issues, such as minimum wage. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that a minimum wage hike to the suggested $10.10 per hour would leads to the loss of 500,000 jobs across the country.
Shaheen did not dispute that she supports the minimum wage hike proposal and said that despite the Congressional Budget Office report, a wage increase would actually create jobs.
“The fact is about two-thirds of minimum-wage workers are women,” Shaheen said. “I think we need to make sure they can support their families. We also know that if we lift the minimum wage that it will lift about a million people out of poverty. It would help reduce government expenses because they would no longer be reliant on our programs.”
Shaheen accused Brown of flip-flopping on the minimum wage issue, saying that as a senator he has supported the increase but as a candidate he has not. Brown said that she was “confused about his position” but admitted that he had supported a wage increase in the past.
“…But here’s the key – everybody was at the table,” Brown responded. “What’s happening right now is another effort by the Obama administration…to just dictate to businesses what they are going to pay. They’re not even being asked, ‘Hey, can you afford to increase wages?’”
He said that raising the minimum wage while businesses face a host of other challenges in a still weak economy, such as the high corporate tax rates, high energy costs, state profit taxes and the upcoming Affordable Care Act’s business mandate, is not a decision that should be made without the input of the businesses that would be affected.
“If we are going to have that conversation, because I have done it before, is to make sure that the people who are actually writing the checks…have a seat at the table and they don’t,” Brown said. “Here’s the real key – we need to make sure that whatever we do it takes into consideration every, every, aspect of that decision.”
The debate closed out with the candidates asked how they live the state’s motto – “Live free or die” – in their daily lives.
“I live that, and believe it, because I think we have too much government playing a role in our lives right now,” Brown said. “In our state ‘live free or die’ means more to us that other people…That New Hampshire advantage is being chipped away… We can do better.”