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Analysts Say Scott Brown Must Galvanize GOP Base In N.H. Senate Race

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown speaks after getting the endorsement from former New Hampshire governors, Steve Merrill, far left, and Craig Benson, far right, and U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, not seen, in May. (Jim Cole/AP)

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown speaks after getting several endorsements in May. (Jim Cole/AP)

STRATHAM, N.H. — For some, he is Mr. Charisma — smooth on the campaign hustings. But former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown’s U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire hasn’t exactly been the smoothest of rides.

A series of uncharacteristic missteps have hampered Brown. They started before he jumped into the race this spring, making him appear unfocused. Bumbles like this in December, when he was asked what New Hampshire Republicans were telling him about running.

“What I’ve heard from the Republicans up here is they’re thankful that I’ve been around for a year helping them raise money, raise awareness as to the issues that are affecting not only people here in Massachu… uh, in New Hampshire, but also in Massachusetts obviously.”

The gaffes have some wondering if the Republican U.S. Senate Primary in New Hampshire, now less than a month away, is more competitive than it might appear.

Pollster Andy Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, believes Brown will beat out his primary challengers — state Sen. Jim Rubens and former Sen. Bob Smith. But he suggests the contest could be closer than many in the Brown camp care to admit.

Most polls — and they are almost two months old now — show Brown way ahead by 30 points, but with 40 percent of GOP voters still undecided.

And the Mayday political action committee — a super PAC run by Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig — recently said it was getting behind Sen. Rubens with $2 million in media buys on his behalf.

“[Rubens is] running more as kind of a Libertarian, so he can tap into some of that Libertarian, Tea Party energy in the Republican party,” Andy Smith said. “I wouldn’t say he’s got a strong chance of winning, but I wouldn’t say that Brown has this in the bag yet for the primary.”

Brown has at times tried to ignore his challengers. For example, after speaking at a New Hampshire Farm Bureau picnic last week he left while the other candidates stayed to field questions from voters.

With his family at his side, daughters Arianna, left and Ayla, and his wife Gail, former Massachusetts U.S. Senator Scott Brown announces his plans to run for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire Thursday, April 10, 2014 in Portsmouth, N.H. Brown hopes to unseat U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. (Jim Cole/AP)

Former Massachusetts U.S. Senator Scott Brown announced his plans to run for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire last April. (Jim Cole/AP)

Brown has instead focused on the popular Democratic incumbent in the race, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen — trying to convince voters, especially reluctant Republicans, that he’s the most likely to beat Shaheen in the general election.

“Sen. Shaheen has voted with the president over 99 percent of the time on these very important issues, those failed policies,” Brown said at a recent town hall event in Salem, New Hampshire, hammering Shaheen’s voting record and her support of the Affordable Care Act. “The president’s not up for re-election right now, but guess what? His number one supporter is.

“So if you’re questioning and complaining,” he added, “well the best way to do that is to allow me to go down there to be that check and balance.”

It’s a strategy getting traction with some voters, like Jim Boyd and a woman who would only identify herself as Patricia, who spoke to us at Avellino’s Deli, in the bell-weather town of Stratham.

“I think a lot of the stuff that Obama is for is totally what I’m against,” Boyd said. “I’ve had my full of the politicians that we have, so Scott will be a new face and a new look at things.”

“I like what he did in Massachusetts,” Patricia added. “I think he’s honest. He follows through on what he says he’s going to do and he’s got vision and he’s out there with the people. I would give him a chance. Why not?”

But analysts think Brown still needs to galvanize the GOP base. Even one of Brown’s most prominent New Hampshire Republican supporters, former House Speaker Doug Scamman, isn’t ready to drop the victory balloons yet.

“Scott Brown’s greatest asset and his biggest problem is the idea of Scott Brown. Why is he running? And he’s got to answer that question.”
– James Pindell, political director at WMUR-TV in Manchester

“I think he’s ahead, yes,” Scamman said. “And I think he will win, but you never know until the votes are counted.”

James Pindell, political director at WMUR-TV in Manchester, says Republicans are Brown’s biggest problem — especially gun owners who are still smarting over Brown’s support of a federal assault weapons ban after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

The president of the group Gun Owners of New Hampshire has said he’s not a fan of Brown’s record, and pointed out Brown declined to sign a pledge on how he’d vote on gun issues.

Still, Pindell thinks the skeptics will warm up to Brown, that he will win the primary and will make the race with Shaheen competitive.

“Once Scott Brown gets through the Republican primary and they begin to consolidate behind him, we’re going to see this automatically become a single digit race,” Pindell said.

But that’s not where Brown is now.

Most polls this summer, including a WMUR and University of New Hampshire survey, show Brown behind Shaheen by an average of 10 points. Which leads Pindell to conclude that Brown still has a major question to answer.

“Scott Brown’s greatest asset and his biggest problem is the idea of Scott Brown. Why is he running? And he’s got to answer that question,” Pindell said. “If he’s running because he thinks New Hampshire needs a centrist, then OK. If he wants to run to represent New Hampshire because he thinks he can be the best senator, then OK. But if Democrats are going to be able convince people that he’s running because this is an ego trip, that’s going to be a problem.”

With control of the U.S. Senate possibly at stake, Pindell and UNH pollster Andy Smith both predict it’ll be one of the most closely watched races in the country, and the most expensive in New Hampshire history.

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  • Jasoturner

    “…he suggests the contest could be closer than many in the Brown camp care to admit.”

    Ridiculous. It would be highly atypical for a republican candidate to not have a firm grasp of the accurate polling numbers and know pretty precisely how the election will turn out…

    • susan

      So very true! Let the GOP waste as many $ millions as they please here in New Hampshire!

  • Argle_Bargle

    635% of 231% Dept: Brown needs a minder for when he reaches for the statistics. He’s like a C-list rock band and controlled substances.

    Shaheen has a statewide network reaching back 30 years. Brown is going to get his clock cleaned, again.

    • susan

      Argle: “Brown is going to get his clock cleaned, again.”

      AMEN

    • joebuilder

      No it will be very close. Shaheen is no longer the conservative Dem she was as Governor.

      NH likes independence not 99.4% party allegiance to Washington DC Progressive politics.

      • Argle_Bargle

        Shaheen’s biggest asset is that she’s from New Hampshire. Brown , however, will sweep Desperate Carpetbagger Notch.

        • joebuilder

          Actually Shaheen is from MO and had no connection to NH until the carpetbagger moved her at the age of 26.

          • Argle_Bargle

            Starting early with your birth certificate campaign? Shaheen was born in Missouri (as Brown was born in Maine – true story) but she still might be a Lao tribesman in disguise.

            Teabagger straw-grasping aside, if you really wanted to correct me you’d have mentioned that Shaheen’s New Hampshire network goes back to 1973, which is almost 40 years. Is this good news for the We Promise Not To Lose To A Girl Again campaign? (hat tip to Charlie Pierce at Esquire)

          • joebuilder

            You introduced the carpetbagger issue, not me but I’ll clarify it for you. Brown was born at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Hospital the closest military hospital, because his father was stationed at Pease AFB in Portsmouth NH. So Brown’s first post hospital legal residence was NH, he lived here before Shaheen.

            I know how long Shaheen has been here, she lives in a near by town and I did vote for her for Governor because she was a good NH independent minded conservative Democrat. She won her Obama coat tail first Senate term based on her Governor’s record as that good independent minded conservative Democrat. The problem is, is that she’s proven by her 99.4% voting record with Reid/Obama that she’s become a Washington insider full fledged Progressive.

            She own’s ACA, she owns DACA and amnesty for illegals. She doesn’t vote like an independent conservative NH resident anymore. The more Brown is able to demonstrate her record vs. his record the more people swing to his support.

            Shaheen can’t have any accountability or scrutiny of her voting record because she loses; which is why she hasn’t held any open forum public events for years now. I can bump into Brown weekly if I want to, as for Shaheen we refer to her as Where’s Waldo Shaheen.

            I’ll work daily to point out the problems with Shaheen’s voting record and how she doesn’t represent NH values anymore, so why should she represent us. My goal is to ensure that Shaheen is one and done.

          • Argle_Bargle

            Posting on WBUR is mostly a waste of time. Between the clueless liberals and boneheaded teabaggers it’s just a null proposition (and don’t get me started on NPR itself). Then I get to read something like “first post-hospital legal residence” and it makes it all OK.

            Plus, it brings to mind anchor baby Michelle Malkin. LOL, and thank you.

  • Mean Girl

    “Mr. Charisma”? More like “Mr Desperate CarpetBagger.”
    Looking forward to seeing him hang up his barn jacket.
    He’s done.

    • joebuilder

      No your carpet baggers were the Kennedy’s and most Hillary.

      Brown has strong NH connections, spent his early years here, born Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to parents stationed at Pease AFB Portsmouth NH.

      He’s owned a vacation home in NH since 1992 and he graduated High School just 35 south of the NH border in MA. Only 40% of NH residents were born here. We moved here 25 years ago because its not MA, and for its independence.

      • noddaduma

        Supporting Brown is support for Northern Massachusetts.

        • joebuilder

          Most in Northern MA, would be happier in NH; they already shop there and eschew the same small government values of NH Residents. The NH/MA State Line really should have been the Merrimack River, and in general follow I-495.

  • jameswhite15

    Brown is probably the worst candidate New Hampshire GOP could put forward. Yes, he has the backing from Big Oil, Wall St and the Koch Brothers; however, his record is so pathetic and as superficial as his desire to “serve” New Hampshire. Brown wants to return to the pomp and glory of DC more than he wants to live in that very small cottage in Rye.

  • Kirbyman

    He is pathetic, and if that is the best candidate that the Republicans can offer, I am likely to vote for Shaheen. What an absolutely terrible choice!

    • susan

      Please vote for MS Sen. Jeanne Shaheen

    • joebuilder

      So you don’t agree with Reagan who famously said my 80% friend in not my 20% enemy?

  • downtown21

    Living in Boston I get to see his ads on NECN. He’s still running against Obama. It’s so pathetic.

    • susan

      That is true. GOP Tea Bag gers’s don’t realize that their BLACK POTUS Obama will not be on the ballot!

    • joebuilder

      No he’s running against Shaheen who voted 99.4% for the Washington DC Beltway Progressive agenda of Reid and Obama.

      Yeah so this election will be an indictment against Shaheen and her cronies, and one happens to be POTUS and his broken policies.

      • downtown21

        He’s laughing at you behind your back.

  • susan

    Is Scott Brown going to auction off one of his daughters again on TV? I loved that!

    Almost as good as GOP Indicted Gov Perry of Texas saying: “ooooppppsss……….sorry!”

    And GOP Tea Bag ger Michele Bachmann saying: “I love New Hampshire. Where the Shot Heard Around the World took place.”

  • susan

    Scott Brown’s old beat up truck is now a British built $85,000.00 Land Rover.

    • joebuilder

      Yeah if you’re talking about the Scott Brown in England. Try to enhance your Google skills before you comment.

  • noddaduma

    Is The NH GOP so hopelessly lost that they can’t find a suitable candidate actually from NH? Anyone who thinks Scott Brown represents NH interests must think NH wants to become Northern Mass!!

    Who in their right mind would want that.

  • Prandis

    bqhatevwr

  • Prandis

    Scott Brown is a real intellectual heavyweight. I especially love the grammatically stupid “Your brilliant Matt.”

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