New Hampshire's Republican Sen. John Sununu accused his Democratic challenger, former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, of shifting with the "political winds" during their first televised debate Tuesday night, while Shaheen hammered Sununu for voting with President Bush 90 percent of the time.
The two sparred over the economic bailout plan, the Iraq war and Social Security during the debate at New England College in Henniker, N.H. At times, each candidate spoke over and attempted to drown out the other.
The race is a rematch from six years ago when Sununu narrowly beat out Shaheen after defeating the state's senior Sen. Bob Smith in the GOP primary.
Sununu argued that Shaheen's initial support for the Iraq war and the Bush tax cuts, and her later repudiation of the two, showed that she shifted her positions to fit popular opinion. He also said that her opposition to Congress's financial bailout plan was another example of political opportunism, while he had voted for the plan and worked to ensure it included taxpayer protections.
"What she was doing was worrying about the polls," Sununu said, according to the Associated Press. "It was popular at the time, so that's what she said."
Shaheen said that the bailout plan did not do enough to protect taxpayers.
"The taxpayer protections John Sununu is talking about are the same taxpayer protections that have allowed AIG executives to go on a spa weekend," she said, according to the AP. "I don't consider those good taxpayer protections."
On Iraq, Shaheen said that she supported the war based on President Bush's claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.
"Based on what we know now about Iraq, I would take a very different approach," she said.
The two also debated Social Security. Sununu has put forward a plan to allow people to invest some of their Social Security taxes in private accounts.
"Leadership that would take seniors' retirement and gamble it on the stock market is not the kind of leadership we need in this country," Shaheen said, according to the Concord Monitor.
But Sununu countered that Shaheen had put forth no new ideas of her own on Social Security. "Jeanne Shaheen's program is this," he said, making a zero shape with his fingers. "No thoughts, no ideas, no proposals at all."
Video of the entire debate is archived by New Hampshire Public Television.