The candidates split on key issues from the start. Asked to identify the greatest threat facing America, Scott brown was unequivocal: radical Islamic Jihadists.
"It's something that’s real, that’s serious. Obviously we have Boko Haram in Africa, we have ISIS and Al- Qaeda elements, still, and their number one goal is to disrupt and dismantle the society as we know it. Senator Shaheen has called what we are discussing fear-mongering. I call it a very rational fear."
Shaheen, meanwhile, said ISIS is a threat, but one the US is handling. When pushed to say if it was wise for the president to take ground troops off the table, a stance Brown has criticized, Shaheen said the that the president should seek congressional approval before deploying troops, and went after Brown.
"What I've said is I don’t think we should take tens of thousands of American troops and put them back into Iraq as an occupying force. That is what my opponent said we should do. He said we should have an occupying force like we had in Korea," Shaheen said.
"With respect to senator Shaheen, we are a liberating force, we are not an occupying force. Senator, and I and every other person who has served in the military resents that you calling us occupiers," Scott said.
The two also differed on immigration. Shaheen reiterated her support for the senate immigration bill that stalled in the U.S. House.
"We’ve got a bill on the floor that the passed with a strong bipartisan vote that accomplished comprehensive immigration reform."
Brown has rejected that plan for going too easy on people here illegally. And last night he called for sealing the border. He called the pricetag of such a policy “irrelevant.”
"Obviously, it is the number on issue in people’s minds right now because they are deeply concerned by not only by people who coming through who are not here legally but people who maybe have criminal intent or terrorist intentions or who may be carrying some type of disease or another.”
Shaheen chided brown for using what she called scare tactics but claimed that approach has been a constant with Brown.
"My opponent has been using the concern that people have and really fear mongering for his own political purpose. A leader should be serious, should alert people to what’s going on, alert people to what’s going on but not try to grandstand on them."
Brown, meanwhile, called out Shaheen for her support of the president.
"Senator Shaheen, for the last 6 year you have voted with president Obama 99 percent of the time. Is the president right 99 percent of the time?"
The night's most memorable moment, though didn’t come when the candidates clashed, it was prompted by a question from debate panelist James Pindell of WMUR.
“Senator Brown, what do you see going right in Sullivan country and what’s going wrong, and please be specific?”
“You are absolutely right, geography plays a role.”
Brown first mentioned the southern border, and then that infrastructure up north, by contrast ,was difficult.
He made no mention of Claremont, the Sullivan county’s biggest city, or anything unique to the county. Brown instead, stressed outdoor activity and tourism.
“One of the biggest opportunities sre ski areas and trails for snowmobiles I support those efforts.”
He went onto cite the challenge of high business taxes and energy costs and Obamacare. The question was then asked again.
“We’re talking about Sullivan county and I think you were sounds talking about the North Country?”
“We’re talking about anything past Concord and the challenges of our state. So if you go to any business those are the challenges...."
Brown again mentioned Obamacare taxes and energy costs, and then,
--“Sullivan county is west of Concord, not north of Concord.”
“With all due respect I’ve answered the question. The challenges are the same in all of our counties.”
After the debate, social media lit up as partisans fought over the back and forth. Whether it was a conscious attempt to trip up Brown, who only moved here in January, and also about which was more accurate, that Sullivan county is north or Concord or west of it?
During the 11 o’ clock news James Pindell apologized to Brown for his interruption.
By 11:30 both campaigns had scheduled fresh stops in Sullivan county.
Brown will campaign at Newport diner this morning. Shaheen will hold a rally this afternoon in Claremont.
Geography, it seems, does plays a role.