Monday, September 08, 2014

Race of the Day- New Hampshire U.S. Senate

57 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Leans Democrat

One of the most intriguing races of the cycle is one that is not considered to be among the very closest in the entire Senate lineup. However, just the fact that Republicans are in contention against a Democrat incumbent in a New England state is evidence of a strong year for the GOP. As has been mentioned before, voters in the Granite State tend to go all out when there is a national wave. That has benefited Democrats in the midterm year of 2006 and Republicans in the midterm year of 2010. If this expected wave were to turn into a "tsunami", things could change here quite quickly. At this point though, I will still have to consider the incumbent to be a slight favorite. There is a long way to go though, and the long, impending general election will only formally get under way after tomorrow's primaries.

Seeking a second term in the U.S. Senate is Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. A native of Missouri, she has been around New Hampshire politics for decades, serving as the first Democrat as Governor in many years, after her first 1996 election. She lost a competitive Senate race in 2002, but won a rematch against a then Republican incumbent six years later. Heading into 2014, she had been considered a solid favorite for reelection. Interestingly enough, New Hampshire's Governor, both of its Senators, and both of its U.S. House Members are all women.

Several Republicans are seeking the right to oppose her, but tomorrow's outcome is not really in doubt. The primary winner will not be former conservative State Senator Jim Rubens, who also ran for Governor in 1998. Nor will it be two out of three candidates in the race who have also run for U.S. Senate previously in other states. One of them, is a certified crackpot, whose legally changed name is not even worth mentioning here. The conspiracy theorist has perennially run for many offices, including President, but most often in Florida and Illinois. Also running, is former U.S. Senator Bob Smith. A two-term conservative stalwart who served New Hampshire in the Senate starting after the 1990 election, Smith launched a quixotic Presidential effort a decade later. Having not gained any traction in the GOP field, he briefly left the party, and began to run as a third party candidate. With the Presidential race being as close as it was that year, that led to much anger at Smith from within the GOP. He would eventually return to the party fold, but his standing at home took a bit and the George W. Bush White House worked behind the scenes to deny him renomination in a 2002 Republican Senate primary. That angered Smith enough, that he took the step of endorsing liberal Democrat John Kerry for President in 2004 and also moved to Florida, where he would twice enter Republican Senate primaries, before dropping out. Now, at age 73, he is running again for the Senate in New Hampshire.

The all but certain GOP nominee in New Hampshire is another former U.S. Senator. While he is not a woman, like most of the biggest names in Granite State politics, Scott Brown once was prominently featured in Cosmopolitan magazine, and has run some very high profile races, (one successful, one not) against women. He also has his former tv reporter wife and two visible daughters, one of which is an ex-college basketball star and American Idol semi-finalist in his corner. Both daughters apparently got married this summer, which might have made for another interesting reality show.

Of course, it is fairly unusual that Brown is even in this race. It is certainly not unheard of for someone to run for the Senate in a state where they have never voted before (Hillary Clinton comes to mind), but Brown basically left one state and political options there for another in making this race, much like how a professional athlete might check the free agent market. I was skeptical of Brown's chances when he first announced this, but he has thus far been doing better than I expected, and it is not so crazy to think it might work. For the record, the Browns say they have owned a home in Rye, New Hampshire for the past 23 years.

Almost all New Hampshire voters will know that Scott Brown had a political career in neighboring Massachusetts. As a State Senator and military veteran, he won a 2010 special election, against severe odds to replace Ted Kennedy in the Senate. Upon arriving in Washington, the ambitious and charismatic Brown became a national political celebrity, writing a book and making several television appearances. Ultimately, the political environment of Massachusetts in a 2012 Presidential year were too much and he lost a highly touted match-up against the very liberal Elizabeth Warren. The Senator likely did not do himself any favors by appearing to be fairly conservative during television debates. I specifically remember cringing when he cited Antonin Scalia as being among his favorite Supreme Court Justices, not that I disagreed with him of course.

Despite his loss in the Bay State, Brown seemed to not be done with politics. While he briefly signed a contract to be a Fox News commentator, the now former Senator was pushed strongly to run for another special election to the Senate in his home state, just months after his loss. He might have had a good shot of a return bid via that route, but it would have been a tough campaign, and even if he won, he would then have to run yet again in Massachusetts this year. So, he took himself out of the running for that, saying he needed a break from campaigning. Some thought he might run for Massachusetts Governor, and if he had, he may very well be the front-runner there right now, but he ruled that out as well. Instead, he started spending a lot of time next door in New Hampshire, and openly contemplated either seeking the Presidency or running for the Senate in the state.

After a listening tour, when it was already fairly certain that he would run, Brown jumped into the contest in the more Republican friendly state of New Hampshire. Some local Republicans were taken aback by his power play in the state, but ultimately, most realized he was the strongest candidate who was willing to actually run against Shaheen in the state. His famed pickup truck might even fit in better in the New Hampshire landscape. Obviously, New Hampshire has many other Massachusetts refugees among its residents.

Since it was clear that Brown and Shaheen would be facing off, the Democrat has led all polls, but some have shown an extremely tight race. The most recent ones have shown Shaheen ahead of Brown by between two and eight points. While some New Hampshire conservatives have felt that the socially moderate Brown is maybe too much of a "RINO", the Republican has been pushing hard on the issue of illegal immigration and that seems to have gotten him some traction. The Democrat is certainly feeling far from overly secure in this race, as the very well funded incumbent is hammering Brown in attack ads, while also taking the steps to point out her independence from the unpopular in the state Obama Administration. She received many headlines last week when she strongly disagreed with Barack Obama's shockingly misguided statement that the ISIS terrorist group is "manageable." She tweeted the sentiment that she agreed with a Joe Biden statement that they much be "chased to the gates of hell." The fact that Biden plagiarized that line from the 2008 John McCain Presidential campaign is a completely other story.

I certainly would be interesting in catching the debates between Shaheen and Brown on C-SPAN when they occur. They could be quite interesting. When Brown first got into this race, I thought he would probably lose by about 10 points, and while I am not yet willing to say he is going to win in New Hampshire, it does seem like the face will probably be a good deal closer than that. I still have to see more to say that this race does not lean in the direction of Shaheen, but at the minimum, Democrats have been put on the defensive here in a state where they were not planning on having to worry about. That could reap benefits in other Senate contests.

Scott Brown is seeking an unorthodox political comeback, not long after his first act came to an end. The odds may be slightly against him, but he has beaten larger odds at the ballot box before. An energized and angry electorate in the state with the motto "Live Free or Die", could very well produce an upset that is not seen until Election Day.

Brown campaign link:

Senate races predicted thus far: 8 D (4 Safe, 3 Leans, 1 Tossup), 13 R (5 Safe, 2 Likely, 4 Leans, 2 Tossup)Overall predicted thus far: 42 D, 43 R (net Republican gain of 5)


At 10:16 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Shaheen beats Brown, 56%-42%.


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