No sooner had Scott Brown rolled up a comfortable margin over three opponents Tuesday night to become the Republican nominee for U.S. senator from New Hampshire than speculation among pundits and pols nationwide ratcheted up. Could Brown, who served two years as senator from Massachusetts before losing to Democrat Elizabeth Warren in 2012, be poised for the political comeback of the century by unseating Sen. Jeanne Shaheen this fall?
For now, New Hampshire in 2014 appears promising for the Republican hopes of recapturing the Senate. Along with Brown’s smashing nomination, a new WMUR-Granite State poll shows Shaheen edging the former senator by a margin of only 46 percent to 44 percent — a big change from the same poll a month ago, which showed Shaheen leading by 12 percentage points statewide.
In addition, Brown backers were buoyed by the news that he had raised more than $2 million in the last reporting period.
"This race has tightened quicker than we thought it would," Ryan Williams, spokesman for the New Hampshire Republican Party, told Newsmax, "and it really has to do with the issues and Jeanne Shaheen’s marching in lockstep with Barack Obama."
The Brown campaign has hit hard at Shaheen for casting the deciding vote in the Senate for Obamacare. Also coming under harsh fire was the Democrat incumbent’s consistent siding with the administration’s stand on immigration.
Most recently, however, foreign policy has entered into the Senate race in a big way.
The horror of the televised execution of American journalist James Foley by ISIS terrorists resonates in a special way in the state, as Foley was from Rochester, New Hampshire.
The war against terrorism is not a new issue for Brown. As a freshman senator in 2010, he introduced the bipartisan Terrorist Expatriation Act, to revoke the citizenship of Americans "providing material support or resources to a Foreign Terrorist Organization" or "actively engaging" in "hostilities against the United States or its allies."
With an estimated 300 Americans assisting ISIS in Iraq, Brown has called for legislation to strip passports and citizenship of any American who helps ISIS or similar terrorist groups.
The Brown campaign contrasts this position with Shaheen, who, Williams said, "sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and goes along with the failed and feckless foreign policy of the Obama administration, as radical jihad is on the march."
As the Republican hopeful takes his case for a robust response to terrorism to town hall meetings throughout the state, Shaheen has been avoiding the forum for public discourse that is most identified with New England and New Hampshire. To highlight her avoidance, a staffer from state Republican headquarters has been following the senator dressed in a giant chicken costume and bearing a sign that reads: "Too Chicken for Town Halls."
Williams said that at one event featuring Shaheen, "Chicken Man" was arrested. but charges were quickly dropped.
The Republican nominee has his problems. His pro-choice position on abortion and support of a gun-control measure while serving as a Massachusetts state legislator have drawn criticism from two key pillars of the conservative movement. And, of course, there is the issue of his running so soon after moving to New Hampshire, which Shaheen is sure to make the major focus of her campaign attacks this fall.
History is against the moderate-conservative Brown. Not since the 19th Century has anyone served in the Senate from two different states. The last two times it was tried — both by Republicans — the scenario of a former senator from one state winning a seat in another failed dismally.
In 1994, former Tennessee Sen. Bill Brock was trounced running in Maryland against Democrat Sen. Paul Sarbanes. In 1980, James Buckley, who had been elected to the Senate from New York on the conservative and Republican lines a decade before, lost a comeback bid for the Senate in Connecticut against Democrat Rep. Christopher Dodd.
But in a state where an estimated 60 percent of residents were born elsewhere, and given the current political climate, Brown may just be poised to make history.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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