Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Republican Don Bolduc took to the debate stage for the third and final time ahead of next Tuesday’s election as polling shows a tight race for the New Hampshire Senate seat.
During the debate, which was held in coordination with WMUR and the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, the senator sought to distance herself from the Biden administration and emphasize her bipartisan work in the Senate, while Bolduc looked to paint himself as a political outsider.
Here are five takeaways from the debate.
Bolduc makes an aggressive final pitch
Bolduc was unafraid to take shots at Hassan during the one-hour debate as he sought to project the blame for many of the nation’s issues on the senator and her voting history.
In one instance, when the candidates were asked about an item they had recently bought that had given them sticker shock, Bolduc was quick to point the blame at his opponent for the high cost of eggs.
“Well, I’ve been there and I’ve been standing in line when people had to take stuff off the belt, that’s her fault,” he said.
He also claimed during the debate that the senator voted on legislation that boosts the domestic semiconductor industry “because it will sound good during an election cycle.”
At another point during the debate, he also accused the moderators of giving the senator a “softball” question when she was asked to respond to his comments about the 2020 election.
Hassan distances herself from Biden
The senator kept President Biden and his administration at arm’s length during the debate, making it clear that she was comfortable publicly disagreeing with him on policies like the Afghanistan withdrawal and trying to lift a Trump-era immigration policy that allows migrants to be turned away at the southern border.
“I stood up to the administration. I disagreed with the administration on its decision to set an arbitrary deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan as I disagreed with the previous administration when it set an arbitrary deadline,” she said during the debate.
“And I have supported an investigation to hold the administration accountable and to find out how it is that the Taliban took control so quickly after Afghanistan.”
During a separate part of the debate, she spoke about Title 42 and her disagreement with the administration’s decision to lift the immigration policy earlier this year. Biden’s move has since been blocked in court, and the administration has since begun implementing it against Venezuelan migrants.
“I have stood up to the administration about their plan to prematurely lift Title 42 because there is widespread agreement that when Title 42 is lifted there will be a huge surge in migration,” Hassan said.
Bolduc seeks to move past election claims
Since the GOP Senate primary ended, Bolduc has waffled on his views about the 2020 election. He claimed before the primary that former President Trump had won the last election, only to say after the primary that the election had not been stolen.
During Hassan’s and Bolduc’s second debate, he appeared to double down on casting doubt on the 2020 election and even alleged Hassan was 2016 election denier herself.
But in the debate on Wednesday, he argued that his views of the last election had been consistent and sought to move past them, in what was perhaps an implicit recognition that any focus on 2020 could be a drag on his own campaign.
“It doesn’t keep changing, right?” Bolduc said about his views. “I have been consistent about it up to the point. You just gave an accurate analysis. And I have said on 14th September, it was not stolen. That’s it. I’m not discussing it anymore. We need to move forward. Elections are about [the] future.”
Candidates paint each other as extreme
As in the case of many contentious races this cycle, both candidates sought to paint the other as extreme and out-of-touch with their state.
Hassan immediately seized on the opportunity when it came to the issue of abortion.
“Let’s talk about Don Bolduc’s extremism on this issue, how out of step it is with Granite Staters and how hard he’s trying to conceal his record. He has said that he would never vote against pro-life legislation in the U.S. Senate. He has said that we should ‘rejoice’ when Roe v. Wade was overturned,” Hassan said.
Bolduc later attempted to turn the tables on Hassan, arguing that she was in fact the extreme candidate on the issue and accusing her of not supporting any limits on abortion.
“She’s the one on the record. She’s the one that is extreme. And that’s the bottom line. I don’t have a record. I just have a promise of 33-plus years in the military of honorable service where I have never lied. Haven’t lied in this campaign, and I haven’t lied about her,” he said.
Biden invoked repeatedly, while Trump is barely mentioned
Bolduc repeatedly tied Hassan to Biden as the president continues to suffer low approval ratings, arguing she was not an independent thinker but rather someone who followed the administration’s line.
“She doesn’t even talk about it,” Bolduc said, referring to Hassan’s position on inflation. “She skips around that. All around that issue because she’s caused it. All her votes in the Senate have caused this heating and eating issue that we have. Retirees going back to work — she’s created it with her 100-percent support to Joe Biden’s failed policies.”
In comparison, Hassan didn’t invoke Trump much during the debate. And in a nod to the swing state’s politics, she noted one time when she had aligned with Trump on policy.
“I’ve been advocating for much stronger security at our border, including personnel, including advanced technology. Now, I stood with President Trump as he signed a bill into law that gave our Border Patrol better technology when it comes to detecting fentanyl,” she said.
Meanwhile, when asked who was the best U.S. president of the past 20 years, Bolduc answered Trump.