Concord, NH -- To say that Scott Brown was the underdog tonight would be an understatement. From the minute I arrived here that was patently clear: way more Shaheen supporters showed up to show their support for her; she drew much more enthusiastic and sustained applause lines throughout the night; and when she took the stage initially, Chuck Todd had to awkwardly pause and wait for the audience to quiet down.
The general consensus, therefore, is probably that Brown got creamed. I disagree. This wasn’t his first rodeo and perhaps that’s why he seemed relatively relaxed under fire. After all, the audience was openly ridiculing and laughing at his responses for no apparent reason. I watched both Arkansas Senate debates, for example, and the audiences weren’t nearly as partisan or disruptive. One exchange, however, and the one everyone will be talking about, was particularly brutal:
Brown sez Shaheen is anti-nuke energy. Shaheen: "No I'm not!" Brown sez she opposed Seabrook nuke plant. Shaheen: "I wasn't in office then!"— Alexandra Jaffe (@ajjaffe) October 22, 2014
I'll let fact checkers sort through who's telling the truth (although watch this clip if you have time); in the moment, however, Shaheen clearly got the better of Brown on that exchange. The audience ate it up. Nevertheless, Shaheen made some outrageous claims herself. She said she was (ahem) “absolutely” proud of voting for Obamacare and essentially admitted she voted with the president nearly 100 percent of the time:
It is an absolute fact that Shaheen is an Obama rubber stamp. But be that as it may, Shaheen had especially strong responses vis-à-vis women’s issues. Her best line of the night, however, was when she said, “I don’t think New Hampshire is a consolation prize,” digging Brown for weighing runs for political offices in numerous states. She was also relentless when accusing him of outsourcing jobs, subsidizing Big Oil, and supporting 44 filibusters as a United States Senator, thereby undercutting the narrative that Brown (as he likes to claim) was the most bipartisan lawmaker in Washington during his tenure.
Incidentally, I spoke with Team Brown’s campaign manager, Colin Reed, after the debate. He said internal polling shows the race is a “dead heat,” and that Senate races in New Hampshire “tend to break late” – that is, the last few days of the campaign. As a result, he’s feeling pretty good about his candidate’s chances.