In Final Debate, Rubens, Smith On Offense, Brown Avoids Mistakes

Sep 5, 2014

Credit Josh Rogers / NHPR

In the final debate of the Republican primary for US senate, Jim Rubens and Bob Smith had one last chance to put Scott Brown on the ropes. They did their best, but Brown avoided any major missteps.

From the moment he’s come into the race Scott Brown has been seen as front-runner. Now with the primary just days away, Smith and Rubens are still trying to run him down.

When Brown, who has voiced support for an assault weapons ban in the past, evaded a question on gun control his rivals pounced.

“There he goes again,” said Smith, “I mean the answer, you didn’t get the answer to the question. He goes on and on, he’s got terrible ratings with all the gun organizations. He’s not pro-gun.”

“That is not a position,” said Rubens similarly, “You cannot slither around the second amendment to the US constitution, it is not to be compromised under any circumstance.”

Smith went after Brown for his vote in favor of the Massachusetts healthcare that has served as the model for so called Obamacare.

“The problem, Scott is you voted for Obamacare junior in Massachusetts,” he said.

And Rubens took issue with comments where Brown seemed to favor keeping parts of the president’s healthcare law.

“You’ve said right here,” said Rubens, “that you favor the structure of the affordable care act, Obamacare. So it’s unclear about what you stand for.”

Brown didn’t back away for his support of the Massachusetts law, but reiterated that states should have the freedom to come up with laws that work for them.

“We can come up with a plan that works for us. We have intelligent people, good leaders right here on this stage who I’m sure will want to jump in and help,” he stressed.

Both also attacked Brown for crossing the aisle to vote with democrats and supporting bills favored by president Obama, but Brown tried to turn this argument on its head.

“What does working with the other side mean, it means I was able to get Democrats to come over and pass an insider trading bill to make sure members of congress couldn’t use insider information to make money,” he said, “I was able to work with the democrats, bring them over.”

On the question of what to do about the growth of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Smith and Rubens shied away from increased American involvement, but Brown was unwilling to rule out send ground troops.

“We have to have everything on the table,” he said.

On abortion there was daylight between the candidates.

When given the chance Smith emphasized his strongly pro-life views, while Brown said abortion should be a decision made between a woman and her doctor and Rubens said he would leave Roe vs. Wade intact.

When it came to climate change Rubens staked out the high ground. He called his position on the issue “brave.”

“Facts are stubborn things,” said Rubens, “Humans are, it’s not just part-natural and part-human, humans are the predominant cause of the climate change we’re seeing. It’s the only theory that fits the observed facts.”

Smith on the other hand said the idea that humans are causing climate change is full of holes.

And Brown, who acknowledges humans have a role in global warming, quickly shifted the discussion to Shaheen’s policies. He repeated the assertion, disputed by fact checkers, that Shaheen has voted for a national energy tax.

“She’s already voted for a cap and trade scheme that has and will raise rates tremendously,” he said, “Since her and the president have been in office gas prices have doubled.”

Brown frequently invoked Jeanne Shaheen, mostly in a negative light. But also when asked if there was politician from the other side of the aisle who he admired.

I respect Senator Shaheen, she cares about our state and our country,” he said, “We have different opinions certainly.”

Brown also stressed his respect for his primary rivals, saying any one of them would make a good Senator. Like Brown Jim Rubens promised to support whoever won the primary. Bob Smith meanwhile said he would have to wait until after the vote to decide.

He won’t have to wait long, primary day is next Tuesday.