DURHAM, New Hampshire — Incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Massachusetts’ liberal icon Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) took the stage more than a hour later than they were scheduled to here Saturday morning at the University of New Hampshire.
Shaheen and Warren were supposed to start the event in Huddleston Hall here at 10:30 a.m., but neither took the stage until 11:37 a.m.
Most of the roughly 50 people in attendence weren’t college students. They were mostly older, silver-haired liberal activists who comprise Shaheen’s Democratic Party base.
Shaheen spoke first, and started out by defining the election as a “fundamental choice” about “what kind of future do we want for New Hampshire and for this country?” Without mentioning his name at all, Shaheen celebrated several policies of President Barack Obama–including Obamacare.
“I want a future where middle class families are strong, where our small businesses have a fair shot at success,” Shaheen said. “Now, we’ve had some good economic news lately. Unemployment is down and the housing market has rebounded somewhat. Consumer confidence is up. More people have healthcare.”
Neither Shaheen nor Warren mentioned Obama by name even once.
But Shaheen said without naming him that he has helped with the economy. She said that “despite all of that good news” there remains “too many people in New Hampshire” who are “still anxious about their futures” because “those economic indicators don’t pay the bills.”
She then delved into a series of leftwing talking points, arguing that the reason people across America and the Granite State are struggling is because of “income inequality,” something she said “continues to be a very big threat to our future.”
“You know it, I know it, and Elizabeth Warren knows it,” Shaheen said. “We need to elect people who are going to work to close that gap, not people who are going to make matters worse by giving more to the big corporations and the people at the top while everyone else falls further behind.”
She pushed for student loan forgiveness, and backed Warren’s bill to do so. Shaheen also pushed the “equal pay for equal work” Democratic Party talking point, even though according to Brown she pays women on her staff 95 cents for every dollar a men who work for her make.
She accused Brown of voting to give “$20 billion in subsidies to the oil companies” and “voting to allow employers to deny women birth control.”
Brown is pro-choice, so the “war on women”-themed attacks against don’t work very much here. Shaheen pulled an advertisement attacking Brown in that vein a couple weeks ago after it seemingly backfired.
Shaheen touted Obamacare again in yet another attack on “special interests” supposedly backing Brown.
“I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I don’t care how many ads Karl Rove and Koch Brothers run against me,” Shaheen said. “I’ll never stop fighting for affordable healthcare for all the people of New Hampshire.”
Shaheen aimed to frame Brown as a special interest conduit, and herself as a representative of New Hampshire values.
“Every day in the Senate, I’m fighting for the people of New Hampshire to make sure that our families and our small businesses have the opportunity to succeed,” she said. “It’s what I’ve done my whole career: Put New Hampshire first. Scott Brown didn’t move here to fight for New Hampshire. He moved here to fight for the same interests he’s fought for his entire career. He fights for corporate interests, those interests that fund his campaigns and we’re seeing that this time again. Big oil companies, Wall Street, those companies that want to send our jobs overseas.”
Shaheen referenced either “special interests,” “Wall Street,” “oil companies,” the “Koch Brothers,” “Karl Rove,” or some combination of those nasty-sounding words at least 25 times in a speech that lasted less than 12 minutes.
But perhaps the most surprising revelation about the event was that Shaheen’s substance-less speech was only slightly more vapid than Warren’s endorsement speech. Warren, who spoke for nearly 18 minutes after Shaheen wrapped, used most of the same liberal talking points in a slightly more populist tone–but didn’t, with the exception of a slight reference to policy on student loans, have any big, specific ideas or hefty legislation behind them. Either the leftwing hero Warren, one of the leading backers and founders of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, didn’t bring her firepower to New Hampshire this weekend. Or, worse for the far left who hopes she runs for president: She might not even have any intellectual firepower behind her rhetoric. The battle hasn’t happened publicly yet, but if Warren makes a move for higher office in the future the populist right–led by Senate Budget Committee ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and incoming Senate Steering Committee chair Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)–are likely to challenge Warren to put up some serious populist proposals or drop her rhetoric.
With Sessions very publicly backing Brown on Friday due to his immigration stances, this may be an early proxy war between the two.
Warren started her speech here with an attack on Brown along the carpet-bagger line, something Brown has been extraordinarily successful at diminishing on the campaign trail since he’s running on his record as a Massachusetts U.S. Senator. Warren beat Brown in 2012, unseating him as a Massachusetts U.S. Senator despite her falsified record to get a teaching job at Harvard. She claimed she had a Native American heritage which she did not have in order to get the job, something Brown attacked on the campaign trail frequently calling her “Professor Warren.” But Warren won in a year where President Obama was at the top of the ticket in a hotly contested presidential election.
“Now I got to say, it did not cross my mind that after beating Scott Brown that what he would do is he would pack up his pickup truck and move to his vacation home in New Hampshire to try to become the candidate to run against Jeanne Shaheen,” Warren said. “So when I first saw this I have to tell you what my first thought was. My first thought was ‘yeah you can pick up your pickup truck but I don’t care how fast you drive it, you’re not going to outrun your voting record in the United States Senate.'”
Warren was seemingly setting up an opportunity to prosecute Brown’s record in the U.S. Senate using serious policy proposals and battle-line votes. “I think voting records really matter, I think they tell us when the chips are down and it all comes down to it, who do you trust?” Warren asked. “Who’s going to be out there for the people of New Hampshire, and who’s going to be out there for the millionaires, for the billionaires, for the special interests?”
Warren proceeded to reference four things from Brown’s voting record that she said mean he wouldn’t stand with New Hampshire–but she didn’t any substantive legislation or solutions behind the themes. She only pushed Democratic Party talking points bills with populist rhetoric–and in some cases didn’t even specify what bills or solutions she was talking about–to launch the same empty rhetorical attacks on Brown that Shaheen had moments earlier.
“Remember when the chips were really down and we were right in the depths of the recession–in Massachusetts, we had 250,000 people out of work, and with 250,000 people out of work, Scott Brown voted against a jobs bill in the United States Senate,” Warren said. “And if that wasn’t enough, he doubled down and voted against it again and again. Three times he said to people out of work in Massachusetts: ‘No. I am not there to help you.'”
“He said that in New Hampshire, too,” Shaheen chimed in to giggles from the audience.
Neither Shaheen nor Warren referred to any specific bill or solution, so the attack line is unlikely to be effective outside the core Democrat base that’s already voting for Shaheen. In addition, hundreds of bills that get introduced and voted on in Congress every year are colloquially called a “jobs bill” so without mentioning any specifics the attack is empty.
“In fact, same thing on the next one–on student loans–the issue in the United States Senate, when Scott Brown was there, was whether or not to let the interest rates on student loans double, to cut the funding for pell grants,” Warren continued, adding the only bit of policy substance she’d back Shaheen with all day, on her pet peeve issue of student loan debt. “Twice, Scott Brown said it is fine to let the interest rates on student loans double.”
Despite starting that section of attacking Brown off with policy heft, Warren dipped right back into the leftwing politics with it. “Scott Brown has made it clear in a choice between those who have already made it big and young people who are trying to get an education, Scott Brown stands with those who have already made it big,” she said.
On her third anti-Brown issue–women’s rights–Warren attacked him on the “equal pay for equal work debate.” That discussion really is just a simple Democratic Party talking point that doesn’t have much substance behind it as the law already prevents gender discrimination in hiring and pay practices.
“On women, let’s all just take a deep breath here, Scott Brown had two chances to vote for equal pay for equal work,” Warren said. “He voted no and no.”
Warren also attacked the pro-choice Brown as somehow less pro-choice than Shaheen.
“Scott Brown jumped out and cosponsored an amendment in the United States Senate that would permit employers to deny women access to birth control,” Warren said. “And let’s throw in one more: He had exactly one chance to vote for a pro-choice woman to the United States Supreme Court and he voted no. When it comes to the question of women, you can be nice, you can be a good father and a good husband, but when you go to Washington you vote on behalf of all of us.”
The first point here, that Brown voted to “permit employers to deny women access to birth control,” is fairly misleading and also political. What she’s referring to is legislation that would allow companies with open religious beliefs to not be forced to pay for things like birth control or abortions if they are against that company’s stated religious ideals. Those employees would still be able to get birth control or abortions, but their companies wouldn’t be forced to pay for it. It’s more of a religious liberty issue than a pro-choice versus pro-life issue, even though the Democrats have framed it as one. What’s most interesting here is that Warren is turning to Democratic Party talking points again, not to independent populist thought to back up her case.
As for the Supreme Court nominee vote, Warren is referring to Brown’s vote against Elena Kagan for the high bench. Just because he opposed her doesn’t mean he’s pro-life and not pro-choice, however, as there’s plenty of reasons senators oppose Supreme Court nominees. The reason why Brown voted against Kagan, he said, is because she was never a judge before. “I believe nominees to the Supreme Court should have previously served on the bench,” Brown said in a statement at the time. “Lacking that, I look for many years of practical courtroom experience to compensate for the absence of prior judicial experience.”
The fourth issue Warren brought up was “Wall Street.”
During the Wall Street commentary from Warren, she said Brown “couldn’t be for this deal”–referring to what she described as post-2008 crash financial sector regulations, without being specific at all about what exactly she was referring to–“unless we got special breaks for some of those financial institutions and transferred literally billions of dollars in costs from the banks that should have to bear it over to the taxpayers.”
Warren again then launched into a political attack discussing who was funding his campaign and who was running ads on his behalf.
The Warren visit has been touted by the left and mainstream media as an opportunity by the Democrats to save Shaheen, who has floundered in recent weeks. She’s done awfully in the two most recent debates, and Brown has surged as a Republican blue collar populist who will fight the president on immigration policy and other matters. Perhaps there’s no better comparison between where the two campaigns stand than how both handled what happened on Saturday.
Brown went to the Democratic stronghold of Portsmouth to a beer festival out in public. Portsmouth is one of just a few towns Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) lost with less than 40 percent of the vote in 2010 when she was elected statewide here by more than 23 points. Brown mingled among voters in the leftwing town, many of whom wanted to stop for pictures with him and told him they’re voting for him. He even held an open press availability in the middle of the beer festival, taking questions from outlets as far-ranging on the political spectrum Breitbart News and MSNBC.
Shaheen, meanwhile, was late along with Warren to their first event of the day. And when she and Warren finished their canned speeches there, they wouldn’t come out from behind a red velvet rope line in the UNH student center where hardly any students showed up. The Shaheen campaign also stumbled in its attempts to make the big event go off without a hitch.
It had cycled through its rally music CD a few times. After about the third time it played John Mellencamp’s “Small Town,” and 47 minutes after the event was supposed to start, it brought a local New Hampshire rap group called Super Secret Project to perform. The group performed a rendition of their local internet sensation “Granite State of Mind” before heading back off stage forcing Shaheen supporters to wait another almost 15 minutes for who they came to see.
Super Secret Project’s version of “Granite State of Mind” performed at the Shaheen event included some extra risqué lines not in the internet version of the parody–including a reference to a nudist colony in the Granite State. “New Hampshire is spanning highways from Cedar Waters to Winnipesaukee,” the woman lead, who was parodying Keys, sang to the audience at the Shaheen event.
The line was part of the group’s parody of the second chorus, where Keys would normally sing: “New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of. There’s nothin’ you can’t do. Now you’re in New York.”
Cedar Waters is a nudist park in New Hampshire, near where the Shaheen-Warren event took place, that celebrates “Social Nudism.”
“Although there are approximately 20 million practicing nudists in the United States, the true concept of ‘Social Nudism’ is still unfamiliar and often misunderstood by many people,” Cedar Waters says on its website, adding that it aims to provide a “private family oriented nudist park” that “operate[s] on sound business and Christian Principles” so “the whole family can relax and enjoy the sun.”
Not there’s anything wrong with the rap group’s massively successful parody rap style–it’s got millions of YouTube hits–or its references to nudist parks. But for Shaheen, who’s a struggling incumbent senator with her opponent surging, to promote it may not be the most politically wise decision. And it’s not like her campaign just pushed the group on stage without her knowing. When she came out on stage, she touted it as well.
“Didn’t the Super Secret Project do a great job?” Shaheen asked the crown. “So what do you think, Scott Brown needs to learn a little something from ‘Granite State of Mind’?”
At the second of three events at which Warren campaigned for Shaheen on Saturday, up in Concord, New Hampshire, there were more campaign follies. Outside the event, the New Hampshire GOP placed a series of signs that look like Shaheen campaign signs that say: “Stand with Obama, Vote for Shaheen.” Two staffers for Shaheen were caught on video published late Saturday by the NH GOP, in which they are seen placing “Jeanne Shaheen: New Hampshire First” campaign signs on either side of the NH GOP mock signs. It’s something the NH GOP says is an attempt by Shaheen to “hide her support for Obama,” an issue she’s struggled with on the trail and in debates.
WATCH SHAHEEN CAMPAIGN STAFF HIDE SIGNS TYING OBAMA TO SHAHEEN:
In addition, Politico’s Burgess Everett called it “questionable media management” when Shaheen’s staff last week ordered green ReVision Energy business owner Phil Coupe to remove this reporter from an event where Shaheen was being endorsed by the liberal environmentalist group the League of Conservation Voters (LCV).
The Shaheen campaign had ReVision’s Coupe kick this reporter out of the open press event at its Exeter, New Hampshire, location despite this reporter’s press credentials from the U.S. Senate press gallery. The company has received stimulus funding from President Obama’s administration, something it touts on its website. The move to kick this reporter out of the open press event was panned by everyone from Politico to the Huffington Post to Talking Points Memo to the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal to the New Hampshire GOP to the Republican National Committee (RNC) and more. Shaheen’s campaign has still not provided any public explanation as to why they did it.
But on Saturday, at the UNH event with Warren, the Shaheen campaign seemed to reverse course and recognize the error of its ways–changing its mind to now consider Breitbart News a legitimate media outlet. When this reporter showed up to check in, a press secretary took this reporter’s contact information and press credentials. Then she brought this reporter back to the press area to meet communications director Harrell Kirstein.
“Hi, nice to meet you,” Kirstein said as he shook this reporter’s hand.