A New Hampshire Senate debate audience broke into laughter on Tuesday after Democrat Jeanne Shaheen refused to provide a yes or no answer when asked whether she supports President Obama.
During a debate with Republican Scott Brown, the Democratic senator was asked whether she approves of the job Obama is doing. “Now, there’ll be a chance to follow up,” reporter Alison King said, “but this is a yes or no answer. Do you approve, yes or no?”
“In some ways I approve, in some things I don’t approve,” Shaheen replied, as the audience cracked up. “Like most questions we deal with as policy makers, there aren’t simple answers, yes or no.”
When King continued to press Shaheen, the senator moved on to talking about a prison she helped re-open, arguing it created jobs in New Hampshire.
As in many battleground states, President Obama is deeply unpopular in New Hampshire. The race between Shaheen and Brown has tightened in recent days, with the Democratic senator maintaining a slim lead. Shaheen has been criticized for voting for the president’s position in the Senate almost 100 percent of the time.
Later in the debate, Shaheen was asked if she would back Nevada senator Harry Reid for another term as majority leader if Democrats retain control of the Senate. She once again dodged, drawing more laughs:
She said she didn’t know whom her caucus would select and was open to multiple senators vying for the position. But when asked whom else she might support, Shaheen refused to speculate.
Following the debate, local NBC affiliate WHDH political analyst Andy Hillier gave the victory to Brown, saying that Shaheen “lost the debate” due to her defensiveness on President Obama.
“This is the kind of debate that can change votes,” Hillier concluded. “I don’t know how many votes it will change, but if I’m right, and Scott Brown was the winner, then this very close race will get even closer.”