Hillary Clinton attacks Scott Brown for 'dismissing' women's rights in New Hampshire
Hillary Clinton defended Democrats’ focus on women’s rights on Sunday, as she returned to her old redoubt of New Hampshire to help the party keep hold of a crucial US Senate seat and maintain the state’s all-female congressional delegation.
In her first visit to the key presidential primary state since her 2008 campaign for the White House, the former US secretary of state also stoked speculation that she is readying another run in 2016, meeting voters at unannounced campaign stops.
Appearing at a rally in Nashua alongside Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Clinton attacked Shaheen’s opponent, Scott Brown, for past votes opposing legislation that would guarantee women equal pay and coverage for contraception in their health insurance.
“It is just astonishing to me that we’re having a debate about whether or not our country believes in equal pay for equal work,” said Clinton, noting that “Jeanne’s opponent is sort of on record dismissing this issue.”
Asked last month by Fox News to respond to Shaheen’s persistent criticism of his record on “women’s reproductive rights and economic security”, Brown said: “Unfortunately I’m talking about issues that people care about.”
Women working full-time in New Hampshire have median earnings of $41,542 a year, according to the American Association of University Women. This is 78% of the $52,954-a-year median earnings of men in the state. A similar ratio exists nationwide.
Clinton went on to tell the crowd that they should make sure fellow New Hampshire voters understand that “at stake in this election is whether or not women have the right to make our own reproductive healthcare decisions”.
New Hampshire Democrats have aggressively drawn attention to Brown’s co-sponsoring legislation, while previously representing Massachusetts in the Senate, to allow employers to decline on moral grounds to provide insurance covering contraception, as well as his vote against the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Criticising opponents “who raise questions about ‘why do these Democrats go around talking about women’”, Clinton told a capacity crowd of 700 at a community college: “Women’s rights are on the frontier of freedom everywhere in the world.”
Shaheen leads Brown in polls by 2.5 percentage points, according to aRealClearPolitics average. Defeat for her or congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter on Tuesday would end New Hampshire’s two-year-old all-women delegation in Washington. The state’s governor, Maggie Hassan, is expected to see off a challenge from the Republican Walt Havenstein.
“I’m really proud to be part of the first all-female delegation to Congress,” said Shaheen, before introducing Clinton. “It shows how smart New Hampshire voters are. And there is nobody better to come here at this time, for our final push, than a woman who has been a role model for so many women across this country.”
Clinton, who has been campaigning in several key congressional races for this year’s mid-terms, followed the rally in Nashua with unexpected get-out-the-vote stops at a bar in Manchester and then in Dover. Support in New Hampshire, renowned for being the “first in the nation” primary state, would be critical to a second presidential campaign.
Noting that the birth in September of her first granddaughter, Charlotte, had made her “focused on the future,” she said: “You get this new life in your family, and you start thinking OK: what are we gonna do for her or for him, and what are we going to do to make sure that our country and the world is the place that it should be for our children and our grandchildren?”
Clinton received a rapturous reception from supporters in the state where she rebounded from defeat in the Iowa caucuses in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary campaign, and where her husband, Bill, declared himself the “comeback kid” after a second-place finish in the 1992 primary on his way to the party’s nomination.
Asked by Shaheen whether they were “ready for Hillary” – using the name of a campaign group that is raising money in preparation for an expected 2016 White House campaign – the crowd roared before chanting Clinton’s name.
Clinton thanked supporters in the state for welcoming her and her husband since 1991. And in a rare reference to one of the lowest points of her first White House bid, she said: “In 2008, during the darkest days of my campaign, you lifted me up, you gave me my voice back, you taught me so much about grit and determination, and I will never forget that.” Despite winning the primary, Clinton went on to lose the nomination to then senator Barack Obama.
Accusing Brown of being a “showpony” compared with Shaheen, whom she called a “workhorse”, Clinton appeared to join in Democratic criticism of Brown running to represent a state that has only latterly been his home. Clinton faced similar criticism from Republicans when running successfully for US senator from New York in 2000.
Referencing a dispute in a televised debate last week in which Brown was accused of being uncertain about the location of a New Hampshire county, Clinton said: “Jeanne knows this state like the back of her hand. I’m not just talking about geography, although that does help.”
Showing off her own apparent knowledge of the state, Clinton reeled off political issues related to specific cities, praising Shaheen’s record as she went.
Brown, who lost his Massachusetts seat in 2012 to Senator Elizabeth Warren, would if victorious on Tuesday become the first person in 135 years to represent two different states in the US Senate. Pledging to make Brown a “historic figure”, Shaheen told the crowd: “We will make him the first person defeated running for the Senate in two different states by two different women”.