MANCHESTER - In his quest for the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, former state Sen. Jim Rubens keeps two checklists in mind - the three most important issues driving his campaign and the three reasons he believes he's best suited to address them.
The issues are the economy and jobs, the nation's deficit and debt, and protecting privacy in an age of intrusive government.
Why does he think he's the best person to address all three? "One of the reasons is I can remember them," he said during a visit to the New Hampshire Union Leader.
The remark was a not-so-subtle shot at his primary opponents, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and former New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith.
"I'm a thoughtful person and these problems are really tough problems. We are going to need a thoughtful statesman to deal with this stuff," he said.
Are Brown and Smith not thoughtful statesmen?
"I'll let them talk about themselves," he said. "But you are going to need those characteristics in a leader. I will talk about Jeanne Shaheen. She is a placeholder," he said.
Rubens says his track record of leadership, No. 2 on the list, is well-established in New Hampshire, where as a state senator he led the fight on transformative issues like electricity deregulation, charter schools and secret ballot voting during Town Meeting season.
He was named the Union Leader's Citizen of the Year in 2013 for leading the coalition that defeated casino gambling despite support from a Democratic governor and a Republican state Senate.
The third reason Rubens believes he is the best choice for Republicans is his campaign strategy, which is to attack Shaheen on all fronts, not just on Obamacare.
"Washington says just run on Obamacare and leave all the other issues alone. It's not going to work," he said. "Obamacare is bad, there's no doubt about it. But the angst that people are feeling can be brought together in a cluster of issues. We have to debate her and contest her on all that stuff."
That cluster of issues starts with the economy, according to Rubens.
"We have an economy that is not working," he said. "Two out of three college graduates can't find a full-time job; older Americans figure they can't retire. We've got to get our economy cranked up again."
His prescription, consistent with the GOP platform, is to reduce regulation on business, lower corporate tax rates, take steps to stabilize the currency and lower energy costs.
"When you have taxes higher than Europe and regulations more intrusive than Norway, we are forcing companies offshore," he said.
Then comes the twin challenge of the country's annual budget deficits and accumulated debt. Rubens puts health care in that basket because without lowering health care costs, he says, we cannot succeed in addressing debt and deficits.
He would support efforts to repeal Obamacare and replace it with solutions that are smaller in scale and more targeted to local conditions.
"The answer is a health care system where there is a durable relationship between the patient and the doctor," he said. "That's the problem with big government health care - its impersonal approach. You lose touch with reality."
Rubens points to private-sector innovations like the CVS Minute Clinic and public initiatives like Mascoma Community Health Care. Serving five communities in the Canaan and Enfield area, MCHC is owned and operated by local patients from the community.
"They can deliver primary care health services at half the cost of the existing system," he said.
Young people ought to be able to buy health insurance at a low rate when they are young and keep that low rate as they grow older if they sign on early enough, he said, calling for health insurance products that are modeled on flat-rate life insurance policies.
When it comes to entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, Rubens said reform is necessary for long-term solvency. He favors what he called "means testing for millionaires" on both programs.
He said he is leery about raising the retirement age for Social Security and opposes eliminating the cap on income subject to the Social Security tax.
His third priority would be to stop or at least curtail what he called "government over-reach" through programs like the National Security Agency mass collection of emails.
"Obviously, we want to stop terrorism," he said, "but if someone is suspected of being a terrorist, you go to a judge and get a search warrant. And if you don't like that way of doing it, then amend the Constitution."