- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 30, 2014

Less than a year after moving to New Hampshire, former Sen. Scott Brown is within striking distance of chopping down Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in next week’s midterm election, having cut her double-digit lead in the polls to almost zero.

Democrats had hoped to keep New Hampshire off the playing field this year, and Mr. Brown’s surge underscores the party’s troubles across the country, where they’ve had to defend seats they’d hoped would be safe, and have been unable to put much pressure on Republicans.

Instead, Mrs. Shaheen’s double-digit lead over the former Massachusetts senator — a man Democrats mocked as a carpetbagger and political opportunist — has all but evaporated, as he’s turned the election at least partly into a referendum on President Obama.

“If Brown wins in New Hampshire, it will have been a bloodbath for Democrats nationwide,” said Andrew Smith, a pollster at the University of New Hampshire.

Entering the election cycle, independent handicappers placed New Hampshire in the third tier of possible GOP pickups, putting it alongside the likes of Virginia and Minnesota, where incumbent Democrats Mark R. Warner and Al Franken now sit atop double-digit leads.

But the latest RealClearPolitics.com average of polls in New Hampshire shows Mrs. Shaheen clinging to a 2 percentage point lead, and the last two polls showed the race is a statistical tie.

Republicans credit Mr. Brown’s tireless campaigning.

Former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu, one of Mr. Brown’s most powerful allies, told The Times that some Senate candidates struggle because they think all they need to do is “raise money and flash and splash themselves on TV.”

Scott has taken the opposite track,” Mr. Sununu said. “He has gone out and met everybody. He has the see me, touch me style of campaigning in New Hampshire down to a perfection.”

On the stump, Mr. Brown has portrayed himself as an independent voice for the Granite State, reaching out to women by touting his pro-choice record and reaching out to national security conservatives by calling for more border security and a tougher approach to immigration.

Perhaps most importantly, Mr. Brown has nationalized the race, saying that Mrs. Shaheen has marched in lockstep with the president, voting for Obamacare and supporting what he sees as the White House’s flawed approach to foreign policy, including the threat posed by Islamic militants in the Middle East.

The irony is that Mrs. Shaheen rode into office in 2008 utilizing a similar line of attack against Mr. Sununu’s son, former Sen. John E. Sununu, whom she painted as a stooge for President George W. Bush.

Now Mr. Obama’s approval rating here — 38 percent in a recent UNH poll — is similar to Mr. Bush’s at this point in his tenure.

Former New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, a Republican, said Mrs. Shaheen’s allegiance with Mr. Obama is helping Mr. Brown.

“This is going to be a typical turnout election, and in a typical turnout in New Hampshire, Republicans have a slight majority,” Mr. Gregg said. “But the independents, as usual, always rule the roost, and Jeanne has not been able to do anything so far to cause independents to vote for her except that she is a good person.”

Voters, however, still view Mr. Brown more negatively than Mrs. Shaheen, who has deeper roots in the state, having served in the state legislature and as governor.

Brown hasn’t really markedly improved his favorability numbers, and Shaheen still has a lead,” said Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “She’s still the favorite, in my view. Again, if she does lose, it means a really big night for the GOP.”

Mr. Gregg said congressional races in New Hampshire often reflect national political trends. In 2006, voters angry at the Iraq war ousted Republican House members. Then, in 2010, they elected Republicans amid the tea party rebellion against spending.

This time around, Mr. Gregg said voters are generally disgusted with Washington’s inability to tackle problems, and Mr. Obama is getting blamed for that.

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