Republican Scott Brown made the New Hampshire Senate race one to watch back in April when he announced his bid to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
Brown stunned the political world back in 2010 when, as a largely unknown Massachusetts state senator, he won a special election to fill the seat once held by legendary Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy. After losing in 2012, he turned his sights north and has given the GOP a chance in New Hampshire, where no other Republican was poised to mount a serious challenge to Shaheen.
Brown has run consistently behind in the polls but has closed the gap as Election Day nears. The latest Suffolk poll has Shaheen leading him by just three points, 49%-46%. The two will square off in a debate Tuesday hosted by NBC News’ Chuck Todd beginning at 8 p.m on NECN. It will also be live streamed at necn.com.
One reason Brown has not yet been able to get over the hump is because of how much time his campaign has needed to spend fighting back against charges he is a carpetbagger trying to return to the Senate following his loss to Elizabeth Warren in the Bay State.
Brown has countered by attempting to tie Shaheen to President Barack Obama on issues ranging from her support of the Affordable Care Act to illegal immigration to the rise of ISIS. He has repeatedly said throughout the campaign that Shaheen votes with Obama “99 percent of the time” and that she no longer represents the state’s independent minded voters.
And Brown’s brand of grassroots campaigning has started to catch on in the state that hosts the first presidential primary. The truck he famously showcased in his successful 2010 campaign has now been clocking some major miles traveling between meetings with voters at coffee shops and campaign rallies.
Still Shaheen, a former governor, has remained personally popular in the state even as the president’s approval ratings have dropped. Earlier this month she said President Barack Obama should stay in Washington instead of campaign for her, while she has embraced the support of Brown’s former rival, Sen. Warren.
“Never in a bazillion years did it cross my mind that Scott Brown would pack up and move to his vacation house in New Hampshire to run against our friend Jeanne,” Warren wrote in a fundraising pitch.
In a state that elected an all-female Congressional delegation, Shaheen has pushed women’s health issues to the forefront of the campaign. It has resulted in a fierce debate over Brown’s record as a supporter of abortion rights and led the Republican candidate to call on Shaheen to take down a “smear” ad attacking his pro-choice credentials.
Brown has countered with plenty of outside help of his own, including former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who won the New Hampshire Republican primary in 2012.
“She is the ‘Simon Says senator,’” Romney said in July while stumping at the farm where he kicked off his 2012 campaign. “We don’t need that, we need an independent senator.”
Along with outside surrogates, outside money has also flooded into New Hampshire ahead of November. Republicans have outspent Democrats on the air, a theme that has been consistent in every top Senate battleground since the primary season came to a close.
A Brown victory in a state that was once seen as a long-shot pickup for the GOP would be a very good sign for Republicans hoping to take back control of the Senate.