PELHAM, N.H. — She repeatedly knocked him for failing to sign a pledge to limit outside campaign spending. He said her flawed promises in support of President Obama’s health care law have led people to believe they couldn’t trust her pledges.
On a chilly Tuesday in the Granite State, the campaign for US Senate cranked up the mercury.
Only four days after Scott Brown announced he was forming an exploratory committee for a US Senate run, he and Jeanne Shaheen, the incumbent Brown hopes to unseat, both went on offense.
Shaheen, on her first full day of events since Brown’s announcement, again and again pressed him to agree to a pact similar to the one he inked with his Democratic opponent in his ultimately unsuccessful 2012 Massachusetts US Senate re-election bid.
“I certainly hope that he will agree to his own People’s Pledge. This is something that he offered in the race against Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, and I think it did reduce the outside money that came into the state in a way that was very good for the debate,” she said.
Under the version proposed by Shaheen, if an outside group purchases campaign ads, the candidate who stands to benefit would contribute 50 percent of the cost of the ads to a charity of the opponent’s choosing.
Brown rejected the plan, calling the pledge too late because outside groups have already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the race.
“I’m not going to be doing the People’s Pledge, because I have a real problem, and so do the New Hampshire people, with her pledges,” Brown said, referencing Shaheen’s statement that people who liked their health care plans could keep them.
At a metal fabricating plant in Pelham, Brown said “the number-one issue” that he’s heard complaints about in New Hampshire is the 2010 federal health care law — an argument Republicans believe can sway voters across the country.
Brown tagged Shaheen as “one of the Obama Democrats” who supported the health care law.
Shaheen, for her part, said she had no regrets about voting in favor of the Affordable Care Act and wanted to “fix what’s not working” without going back to the old system “that said you can be thrown off your health care if you get a serious illness.”
New Hampshire’s senior senator, who attended four public events across the state Tuesday, instead focused on finding different ways to needle Brown about the pledge.
At a computer company in Claremont, not far from the Vermont border, she declared herself “very disappointed” that he had not yet agreed it.
After schmoozing with local firefighters, she insisted that “voters in New Hampshire can make up their own minds” without big spending by outside groups. And she said people did not like negative ads, which third-party organizations often air in political races.
“Hopefully he’s going to rethink his commitment to taking this People’s Pledge,” she said.
She called the assertion that it was too late to ink a deal curbing outside ads “a red herring,” noting that when Brown and Warren signed their deal, outside groups had already spent signficant sums on advertising in that race.
In early 2012, Brown called on Warren to denounce ads from outside groups. She responded, and the campaigns, after some back and forth, drafted an agreement and signed a pact in late January of that year.
A 2013 report by the advocacy group Common Cause found that the Brown-Warren pledge significantly reduced outside spending in the race and resulted in comparatively fewer negative ads during the campaign.
Shaheen, a former New Hampshire governor who was elected to the US Senate in 2008, declined Tuesday to speak about why she believed she would be a better senator than Brown or what the themes she might strike in the 2014 campaign.
“I’m going to continue to stay focused on the needs of the people of New Hampshire. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last five and a half years. That’s what I’m going to continue to do,” she said. “I think my record speaks for itself.”
Shaheen also emphasized that Brown must first win a GOP primary. Current GOP candidates include former US senator Bob Smith, former state senator Jim Rubens, and conservative activist Karen Testerman. The filing deadline for the primary is in June.
He has not yet made his candidacy official. But as he continues the “exploratory committee” stage of his campaign, people close to Brown say he expects to announce campaign staff within days.
Back in Pelham, Brown sought to inoculate himself from the “carpetbagger” label that Democrats have flung at him after he sold his home in Wrentham and moved full time to the family vacation home in Rye, N.H. late last year.
“That’s a derogatory term to people who have made life decisions to come and be closer to their family or have a different lifestyle,” Brown said, pointing to the high number of people who move to New Hampshire. “So what they’re doing — and I’ve heard this over and over and over again — is that they’re insulting the people that have moved here.”
Brown, who has been mentioned for national office in 2016, said that if he ran and won, he would commit to serving a full six-year term in the Senate, foreclosing on joining a White House ticket.