Scott Brown Poised To Help GOP Expand Senate Fight

Image: Senator Brown pauses as he addresses supporters during a campaign rally in Wakefield
Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) pauses as he addresses supporters during a campaign rally in Wakefield, Massachusetts November 1, 2012. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS USA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION HEADSHOT) - RTR39VQ7© Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters / Reuters

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GOP poised to further expand 2014 Senate battleground with Scott Brown looking like a good bet to run for NH SEN… But Shaheen has the early polling advantage… Brown to speak in New Hampshire today at 4:30 pm ET… Obama announces he’s reviewing his administration’s deportation practices… Unemployment insurance deal reached in Senate… And other nuggets from the new NBC/WSJ poll.


GOP poised to further expand 2014 Senate battleground

A good week for Republicans -- winning that Florida special election, reading our NBC/WSJ poll -- got even better last night when the news broke that former Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) is getting close to jumping into New Hampshire’s Senate race to challenge Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). As NBC’s Kasie Hunt reported on Thursday night Brown is set to form an exploratory committee, according to Republican sources with knowledge of the plan, which would allow him to raise money and hire a staff. If Brown does run, that would further expand the Senate map for Republicans, forcing Democrats to have to spend more money to defend another incumbent and increasing the GOP’s margin of error in other contests to net the six Senate seats needed to win back the U.S. Senate. Think about it: To get to six seats, Republicans could mostly run the red-state table of Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Or they could lose a couple of those and win instead in Colorado, Michigan, or New Hampshire. Right now, Republicans have a LOT more pieces on the chessboard than Democrats do. The side with the most pieces doesn’t always win, but it sure helps.

Shaheen with the early advantage

All that said, Shaheen would have the early edge in a match up against Brown. Per a Suffolk poll released last week, Shaheen has a double-digit lead over the former Massachusetts senator, 52%-39%. And that’s better shape than the polling has shown for the Democrats running in Colorado (Sen. Mark Udall) and Michigan (Gary Peters). As we wrote earlier in the week, there are two tiers of Senate contests come November -- Tier 1 are all the red-state races (AK/AR/LA/MT/NC/SD/WV) where President Obama lost in 2012, and Tier 2 are all the races in blue/purple states (CO/MI/NH) where Obama won. A good Election Day 2014 for Republicans becomes a great Election Day if Republicans are able to pick off a couple of those Tier 2 contests.

Brown to speak in New Hampshire today

As it so happens, Brown -- and a few other prominent Republicans -- will be speaking in New Hampshire today at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, and the New Hampshire Union Leader says this is where Brown will announce the formation of his exploratory committee. Per the schedule, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) will speak at noon ET, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum goes at 1:30 pm, Scott Brown speaks at 4:30 pm, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal addresses the group at 7:00 pm. By the way, we assume Brown’s exploratory committee means he ends his Fox News contract and probably cancels that scheduled April 3 appearance in Iowa, right?

Obama announces he’s reviewing his administration’s deportation practices

Under increasing pressure from Latino groups upset at the Obama administration’s deportations of undocumented immigrants, President Obama on Thursday told Reps. Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and Xavier Becerra (D-CA) that the Department of Homeland Security will study its deportation practices, the White House said. “The president emphasized his deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system. He told the members that he has asked Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to do an inventory of the Department's current practices to see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law,” the White House said per a readout of the meeting. Yet as the New York Times notes, the administration relaxing its deportation policy could hurt any chance -- as slim as it looks right now -- to pass immigration reform later this year. “[A]ny effort to pull back on deportations could threaten to undermine longer-term hopes for bipartisan legislation to overhaul the immigration system. In the past several months, Mr. Obama and top advisers have repeatedly told activists that the president’s hands are tied by laws that require him to spend millions of dollars in an effort to eject people who have crossed into the country without the proper papers.” Obama today meets with groups advocating immigration reform.

Unemployment insurance deal reached in Senate

“Five Senate Democrats and five Republicans unveiled a deal on extending expired unemployment insurance benefits for five months, which should be enough to overcome a GOP filibuster and get the package out of the Senate later this month,” Roll Call reports. “The proposal is paid for using a combination of offsets that includes extending ‘pension smoothing’ provisions from the 2012 highway bill and extending customs user fees through 2024, according to a release.” More: “The group led by Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., also includes Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Portman of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mark S. Kirk of Illinois. Portman and Kirk had voted to filibuster an unemployment extension in February, with Democrats coming up one vote short.” So that’s the good news for advocates of extending unemployment insurance; the bad news is that the GOP-led House doesn’t seem eager to touch the issue.

Other nuggets from the NBC/WSJ poll:

Here are some additional numbers from our most recent NBC/WSJ poll:

  • Two-thirds of respondents (67%) say they’re more likely to vote for a candidate who is committed to bringing federal dollars and projects back home to their local areas, while the exact same number (67%) say they’re more likely to vote for a candidate who supports cutting federal spending. Go figure!
  • Republicans’ views of President Obama (a 6%-81% fav/unfav with GOP respondents) are almost exactly identical to their views about Vladimir Putin (6%-67% fav/unfav).
  • And President Obama (51% positive, 33% negative) and Bill Clinton (59% positive, 19% negative) have pretty much the same fav/unfav score in Democratic-held congressional districts. But they have much different scores in GOP-held districts -- 52%-28% for Clinton, 33%-52% for Obama. Now you know why Clinton is the Democrats’ preferred campaign surrogate, especially in red states.

Oppo hit on Sasse

Lastly, Ben Sasse, who’s running for the U.S. Senate in Nebraska, has attracted plenty of support from prominent conservatives in his GOP primary. But check out the oppo hit via Politico: “Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse has built his Senate campaign on his opposition to Obamacare — but he once consulted for a firm that was working to implement it. Sasse provided early ‘strategic advice’ to former Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt’s health care consulting firm while the firm pitched itself to clients in early 2010 to help implement the Affordable Care Act. Sasse is listed, along with his photograph and biography, as a ‘senior advisor’ under the heading ‘Leavitt Partners team’ in PowerPoint presentations from April and May 2010 in which Leavitt’s firm sold its Obamacare expertise.”