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Campaign Monitor

Smith, Rubens go after Brown in GOP U.S. Senate debate

Republicans seeking their party's nomination in next weeks state primary, from left, former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith, former state Sen. Jim Rubens and former U.S. Sen. From Mass. Scott Brown, are seen during a televised debate, Thursday Sept. 4, 2014 at WMUR in Manchester, N.H. The winner of next weeks state primary will try to unseat incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Republicans seeking their party's nomination in next weeks state primary, from left, former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith, former state Sen. Jim Rubens and former U.S. Sen. From Mass. Scott Brown, are seen during a televised debate, Thursday Sept. 4, 2014 at WMUR in Manchester, N.H. The winner of next weeks state primary will try to unseat incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Jim Rubens and Bob Smith repeatedly put Scott Brown on defense during a debate last night, attacking him for flip-flopping on issues and saying he lacks Republican principles on everything from the Second Amendment to health care.

“Mr. Brown, tear up those talking points. For heaven’s sake, you vote with President Obama more than you vote with the Republican Party,” Smith said after Brown said he doesn’t regret any of the votes he took as a Massachusetts U.S. senator.

The debate, aired on WMUR, was Rubens’s and Smith’s last chance to take the wind out of Brown’s sails heading into Tuesday’s Republican primary. The winner of that race will take on incumbent U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Brown, for his part, kept most of his talking points centered on Shaheen. Alongside guns, health care and Brown’s voting record, immigration and foreign policy were top issues in the hourlong debate.

On guns, Brown did not give a clear answer to whether he would support a federal assault weapons ban, even when asked a second time, giving Rubens and Smith an opening to attack him.

“He’s not pro-gun and you get all of this gobblydegook; this is what we don’t need in politics these days,” Smith said. “Take a stand.”

“You cannot slither around the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, it is not to be compromised with,” Rubens said.

Brown said he is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but gun groups across the state have been opposed to his candidacy from the beginning. In 2013, he said he would back a federal assault weapons ban and opposed so-called reciprocity laws that would make a concealed carry permit in New Hampshire valid in Massachusetts.

Smith and Rubens also cast themselves as conservative alternatives to Brown, who they say voted too often with President Obama. Smith said the way to save the country is by never compromising. In response, Brown pointed to several bills he championed that passed with bipartisan support, including an insider trading bill.

On climate change, Rubens criticized Brown of “flip-flopping” on whether he believes it is caused by humans. Rubens, breaking with the party mold, strongly believes climate change is man-made. Brown has said he thinks it is partially caused by humans, but said “no” when asked in a recently whether he thought climate change was scientifically proven.

“Scott, you’ve been all over the map on this issue,” Rubens said. “This is emblematic of the way you address issues, and you can’t do that. The people want to know where candidates stand on issues.”

On foreign policy, both Smith and Rubens said the U.S. should not use ground troops to fight the Islamic State militant group. Brown, however, said every option should remain on the table. Beyond ground troops, Rubens said the U.S. shouldn’t even be using airstrikes against the Islamic State but should improve ground intelligence and work with regional powers such as Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia to dismantle the group.

U.S. citizens fighting alongside the Islamic State should have their citizenship revoked, Smith and Brown said.

“Rhetoric at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard isn’t going to cut it,” Brown said, referring to Vice President Joe Biden’s comments this week that the U.S. will follow the Islamic State to the “gates of hell.” The Islamic State is “laughing at us and we need to do something and that would be a great first start,” he added.

Rubens took it further, saying Americans fighting with Islamic State should be tried for treason and put to death.

On immigration, all three candidates said they do not favor amnesty and that people living in the U.S. illegally should be sent back to their home countries. When asked whether he disagreed with U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, on anything, Brown said he wouldn’t have supported the comprehensive immigration reform bill that she backed last summer.

Smith offered the most fiery rhetoric on the topic, insisting on calling undocumented immigrants “aliens” and saying he does not need to read any bills related to immigration.

“Round them up and send them home,” he said.

On social issues, only Smith took a strong stand against abortion rights. Rubens and Brown both said Roe v. Wade is the law and they would not work to change it, although Brown said he favors parental notification laws and wants to do more to promote adoption.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

Legacy Comments7

On the one hand, I had to laugh at Bob Smith when he said he's "talked with many abortion survivors." I know what he meant, but still, it was comical. On the other hand, I found it offensive that he would talk about abortion using the same language that is used for rape and domestic violence victims. Women who choose abortion are not victims. They have made a choice. It was not done TO them without their permission. Perhaps some women come to regret the choice, but they are still not victims, or "survivors" of abortion. To suggest so suggests that women are not capable of making their own decisions, and therefore women need to have the decisions made for them, so that they don't become victims. When you peel back the covers, it's completely condescending.

Thanks Fern leaf-er. Re: "Women who choose abortion are not victims. They have made a choice. It was not done TO them without their permission." And the "to" them is not "rape" unless they say no, as for out in California on a college campus it's rape if they don't say: yes. See: http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/03/living/affirmative-consent-school-policy/index.html The implied consent doesn't exist any more. What say any or all of these 3 1 = 4 R&D candidates on this issue? that is asked by me because the statute of Uncle Sam reads of requiring this too, like in a State civil ** case against a Federal agent(s) that unless there's an affirmative "consent" to have your case Removed to U.S. District Court they can-NOT do so but did and do violate this by BOTH State and Federal officials in that BOTH Plaintiff and Defendant must "consent" by BOTH: 28USC636(c)(1) *** and N.H. Articles 1 12. **** Reference the Case #2005-C-033 in Grafton County Superior Court against then U.S. Attorney Thomas P. Colantuono * that was allowed to be stolen by the Feds! To that is meant the Ed Brown CIVIL case ** that started at the head waters 2 years before all these blood-suckers mouthed off down below here in Concord. So whoever gets in to please devise some Senate Bill of to Review their Appointees* to see to it that they do their job according to the law, because right now the FCI's for to "correct" are merely dungeons without teachers! "False Advertising" Federal Pimps! who solicit both illegally *** and unlawfully!! **** Thus so much for the N.H. Article 18 "reform" of our neighbors! by these creatures of the Union that we created as the creator state, of the creature with only limited powers that when they go over-board they ought to either: Wise up or Drown!

His pro-gun stance notwithstanding, I thought Rubens came across as more 'with it' than Smith & Brown combined in this debate.

His pro-gun stance is something I like about him. Not to mention he's the only one of the three who believes the science behind global climate change AND he has the most pro-choice view of the three candidates. Still, I don't think he can beat Shaheen. Brown remains the only candidate who stands a chance of beating her.

I was actually reasonably impressed with Rubens.

Rubens is definitely the most thoughtful of the candidates who have actually lived in NH for more than 10 minutes

These WMUR debates are hilarious! Rubens and Brown BOTH wiped the floor with ol' Bob last night. Bob's closing argument was basically "vote for me 'cuz I know a lady who watched two babies die in a bucket."

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