Shaheen, Brown clash over ISIS and Charlie Brown in New Hampshire debate

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Sen. Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenDems call for better birth control access for female troops GOP puts shutdown squeeze play on Dems Senators seek to boost women in international forces MORE (D-N.H.) and challenger Scott Brown sparred over issues that have dominated the campaign at a debate Thursday night. 

Chief among those was national security, which Brown has sought to make an issue as Election Day nears.

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Asked what the greatest threat to America was, Brown named radical Islamist fighters, such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Boko Haram, which is based in Africa, but sought to defend himself against charges of fear mongering the issue.

“I call it a very rational fear,” he told the crowd.

Shaheen pushed back against Brown’s hard-charging rhetoric.

“I don’t share my opponent’s view that ISIS is going to cause the collapse of this country,” she said.

“Right now, we need to let the Iraqis, we need to let the Kurds, we need to let the people whose country's there do the fighting,” she added, when asked if she believed America should have troops on the ground in Iraq in the campaign against ISIS.

If the president does seek to use ground troops, she said he should ask for congressional authorization.

The debate was broken up by one moment right before the end of the broadcast, when the moderator noted that the debate would be followed by the classic movie “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and asked each candidate which Peanuts character they most closely identified with.

Shaheen was quick with an answer: Lucy.

Brown said he felt a kinship with Charlie Brown.

“Who’s the football?” the moderator asked. The question went unanswered.

Shaheen and Brown also fought over whether America should keep troops in Iraq, as it did in Korea following the Korean War.

Brown seized on Shaheen's comments that the move would constitute an implementing an “occupying force.”

“We are a liberating force, we are not an occupying force. And I and every other person who served in the military resents that you are calling us occupiers,” he said.

Brown also framed a discussion of immigration using the language of national security. Asked how much his plan to secure the border would cost, he said the price was “irrelevant” because “the safety and security of our country is the most important thing.”

He also suggested that one danger posed by a border, he contended, was not secure, was an influx of disease to the United States. He said Americans should be concerned about migrants crossing the border who were “carrying some type of disease or another.”

It’s not the first time he has used the specter of pandemic to make a point about the border: He did so earlier this month, in light of the global re-emergence of the Ebola virus.

His comments about Ebola were a target of Shaheen’s during the debate. Drawing on this rhetoric, Shaheen looked to paint a picture of Brown as being out-of-touch with science and praying on the fears of Americans.

When talking about the border, she seized on his comments that the “whooping cough and polio and other types of potential diseases are coming through.” She noted that polio has not been seen in the United States since the 1990s. The last imported case of polio caused by wild poliovirus was reported in 1993

The pitched tone of the debate was not unexpected. Brown is looking to get back into the upper chamber, after he lost his seat in Massachusetts to Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenJuan Williams: Verdict on big debate will be instantaneous WATCH LIVE: Warren campaigns for Clinton in NH Fifteen years since pivotal executive order, STORM Act could help fight terror finance MORE (D-Mass.). National Republicans are hoping that a last-days surge by Brown could help push them closer to claiming the Senate majority.

But the debate also took place on the same day a University of New Hampshire poll was released that found Shaheen leading Brown by 8 percentage points.