With two weeks until Election Day and polls showing a tight race, both Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenBiden administration resists tougher Russia sanctions in Congress GOP holds on Biden nominees set back gains for women in top positions Sununu setback leaves GOP scrambling in New Hampshire MORE (D-N.H.) and Republican Scott Brown came out swinging during the candidates' first live televised debate on Tuesday night.


The incumbent repeatedly interrupted Brown to push back on his attacks on her record, accused him of "fearmongering" on Ebola and "grandstanding" on the border security issue, and attacked him for his move to the state just prior to running.

"I don't think New Hampshire's a consolation prize," she said of the former Massachusetts senator who lost his seat to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) by more than 200,000 votes.

Shaheen delivered Republicans a gift when she responded "absolutely" to a question from moderator Chuck Todd on whether her vote for ObamaCare was a "proud accomplishment." The Republican National Committee immediately released a shareable video clip for social media.

Brown, meanwhile, seemed to take extra pains to show respect for Shaheen, perhaps haunted by the fallout from his 2012 debates with now-Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D), where he was hurt with women voters by the perception that he was too aggressive toward the female candidate.

He complimented and agreed with the incumbent, while trying to frame the race as a referendum on President Obama and Shaheen's support for his policies.

"She did the right thing as governor. She actually addressed those issues, she came up with a protocol, she came up with a plan," he said of Shaheen's handling of a New Hampshire health crisis.

Brown added: "The problem is the president has not come up with a coherent plan [to handle the Ebola outbreak]."

Most polling has shown Shaheen holding a solid lead.

Brown is unpopular there, with a new Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll out this week showing him trailing Shaheen by just three points but underwater with voters.

That likely informed his strategy to keep the focus on Obama rather than Shaheen. Throughout the debate, Brown slammed Obama for a lack of a plan on various issues, at one point knocking his "incoherent" and "confusing" foreign policy, which he said Shaheen fully supported as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

And in one of the stranger lines of the debate, Brown, in response to a question from Shaheen suggesting he voted for outsourcing, accused Shaheen of "outsourcing" her "independence" to Obama.

"I think outsourcing has a lot of different meanings. When you actually were elected you said you would be an independent senator, and you outsourced that independence by voting with the president over 99 percent of the time," he said.

The comment drew laughter from a loudly pro-Shaheen crowd, one of the many lines from both candidates throughout the night that prompted a spirited reaction.

Shaheen sought to distance herself from the president, especially on foreign policy, criticizing the president for failing to conduct airstrikes in Syria after it became clear the Assad regime had used chemical weapons.

"I think when America draws a line in the sand, it's important for us to go ahead and follow through on that," she said.

But she offered a clumsy dodge when asked whether, yes or no, she approved of the job the president is doing.

"In some ways I approve, in some ways I don't approve," Shaheen said, prompting laughter.

Republicans saw those comments, as well as her assertion that she doesn't oppose nuclear energy, as some of the night's biggest missteps.

Shaheen demanded proof for Brown's claim that she opposes nuclear energy, and Brown appeared to stumble, suggesting she opposed the construction of the Seabrook Station Nuclear Plant, to which Shaheen responded, "I wasn't in office then!"

Brown's advisers quickly tweeted out a 1987 clip of Shaheen, then a Democratic operative in the state, criticizing GOP Govs. John Sununu and Mel Thompson for their "political support" for building the plant.

But Brown also drew criticism for being inarticulate.

Brown denied that he said ISIS terrorists could be crossing the unsecured border, comments he made during an interview with Fox News last month. Asked what "metric" could be used to decide whether the border is finally secured, Brown again drew laughs from the crowd.

"Border's secure! It's secure! You know it when it's secure and people don't come across it," Brown said.

Asked why he wasn't running for Senate in other states he had lived in, Brown said, "because I live here," prompting guffaws. He talked about his "long and strong" family ties to the state.

The debate showcased their differences on everything from sending ground troops to battle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which Shaheen opposes but Brown believes should be left on the table; to the Senate immigration reform bill, which Shaheen supports but Brown criticized as too soft on border security and offering "benefits to people who have broken our laws"; to climate change.

They both agreed, however, that their respective parties' current leaders in the Senate might need replaced.

Brown said if elected he'd "make sure that we find out who the best person is." Asked further whether Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would be the best option, Brown said he had no "ability to make that determination." He said McConnell did a "good job under trying circumstances" when Brown served under him.

Shaheen expressed support for a challenge to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), saying it's "important ... because we need to think about how we're doing business in the Senate."

The two meet for another debate on Thursday as they head into the final leg of their race.

This post was updated at 10:44 p.m.