Much of the debate between congressional candidates Charlie Bass and Ann McLane Kuster could have taken place between candidates in just about any district in the country. The forum, organized by the BIA and NHPR, centered almost exclusively on the national economy. And most of the time, the congressional candidates stuck to broad party-line talking points.
Take Democratic challenger Ann McLane Kuster’s point on taxes and deficit reduction.
“My sense is that these are challenging times, we have to get serious about the deficit," Kuster said. "And it’s not serious to give millionaires and billionaires an additional tax break.”
Meanwhile, incumbent Republican congressman Charlie Bass noted, “The dogma of the campaign about the rich versus the poor, this is about the economy, and we’re here to talk about turning the economy back around.”
Those were key ideological threads woven throughout the debate. Even when NHPR moderator Laura Knoy asked the candidates where they agree, their differences on taxes once again came to the fore. After some long responses, it all culminated in a long exchange.
“The whole politics of envy in this campaign is really a sad chapter in politics," Bass said. "And I would only suggest that I have said, over and over again, ‘Bring it to the table!’ If President Obama and Annie Kuster’s idea for reviving this economy, reducing the deficit, and putting people back to work is raising taxes on sub-S corporations and individuals who have incomes of more than $200,000 a year, fine! Bring it to the table! I’ll consider it!"
Knoy briefly tried to cut in, but Bass continued with, “But show me where you’re going to find the $4 trillion to get this budget balanced in the next 10 years!”
After another attempt on Knoy's part to move to the next question, Kuster threw in her comeback, "And we certainly won’t with a trillion dollars in new tax breaks!”
New Hampshire issues mainly focused on the workforce. Both candidates were asked about how they would slash the defense budget if Congress doesn’t reach a deficit deal and automatic across-the-board cuts go through this winter. The concern is that major New Hampshire employer BAE Systems would lose defense contracts, and lay-off workers. Kuster said she would go with a targeted approach.
“I would cut redundant weapons systems, I would look at the 800 sites that we have all over the world, to see if we can afford that many locations at this point," Kuster said. "But I would not cut the services and the goods that are created at BAE, which have to do with protecting our troops.”
For his part, Bass said the problem wasn’t potential defense cuts, but rather Democrats blocking Republican budget efforts. He said he would go with the recommendations of the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.
“The Simpson-Bowles budget plan calls for defense spending at Gross Domestic Product minus one percent for the next 10 years," Bass said. "And those spending decisions would be left to the Armed Services Committee on the authorization side, and the Appropriations Committee on the appropriation side.”
And that gets to another point. A few times, the candidates did stray from the standard party talking points. Bass stressed his work on the Simpson-Bowles budget commission and his other bipartisan credentials. Although Kuster defended the Affordable Care Act, she acknowledged the cost of health care is still a problem. And, she said her belief that consumers should be able to make informed choices based on cost and competition is the influence of growing up in a Republican family.