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Shaheen is latest Democrat to shift toward Ebola travel ban

Shaheen's ban position is under scrutiny. October 7, 2014. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said through a spokesman Monday that she is open to a temporary travel ban from countries fighting Ebola, the latest Democrat to recalibrate their position on the issue.

"Senator Shaheen has contacted New Hampshire officials about local preparedness. She strongly supports any and all effective measures to keep Americans safe including travel bans if they would work," Shaheen spokesman Harrell Kirstein said in a statement.

Last week, Shaheen told NECN, "I don't think at this stage that a travel ban makes sense."

Shaheen's opponent, former senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.), supports a travel ban and has been very critical of President Obama's response to Ebola. He penned a letter to Shaheen on Saturday urging her to support a ban on travel from West African countries fighting the virus.

Republicans accused Shaheen of flip-flopping.

"Jeanne Shaheen must have just taken a poll and realized that she was out of step with the vast majority of Americans who favor a travel ban," said New Hampshire Republican Party Chair Jennifer Horn in a statement.

Shaheen's campaign disputed that the senator had shifted her position, pointing to her comments in an Oct. 11 report in the Foster's Daily Democrat newspaper. "I think we can reassure the public that there is a lot being done now and we are going to continue to assess what the situation is and take action based on what we see,” Shaheen told reporters then.

The White House said Friday that President Obama is not “philosophically opposed” to a travel ban, but believes it could do more harm than good. Public health officials have warned that such a ban could make things worse because it would impede the flow of medical supplies to affected areas and encourage people to try to work around the restrictions by traveling to the United States from countries not fighting Ebola.

But more and more Democrats are warming up to the idea of a temporary travel ban to prevent the spread of Ebola in the United States, an idea some Republicans have been pushing for weeks. Last week, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Georgia Democrat Michelle Nunn endorsed the idea after their Republican opponents came out in support of a travel ban. Like Shaheen, both Democrats are running in contests that could determine which party controls the Senate next year.

"This is feeding into the Republican narrative that Democrats don't know how to govern and government is too large," Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), told The Washington Post over the weekend. Democrats, Manley said, "are desperate to try to demonstrate that they have tough ideas to respond to the crisis."