Re: What To Expect On Primary Night -- and Beyond
Since entering the Senate race in April, Scott Brown has spent the last five months campaigning tirelessly. He has run a traditional New Hampshire campaign with a heavy emphasis on retail and grassroots events. His “New Hampshire Speaks” town hall meetings have focused on the important issues for voters, such as taxes and spending, President Obama’s incoherent foreign policy, the emerging Islamic State, the ongoing immigration crisis at our southern border and the failures of Obamacare.
As a result of his hard work, Brown has momentum on his side, and is in a strong position to earn the Republican nomination for Senate next Tuesday. As Dante Scala, a University of New Hampshire political science professor, told the Eagle-Tribune last weekend, "He's doing a lot of the little things right."
A look at recent history indicates that if Brown wins the primary, it will be with a plurality of votes. Brown is running in a crowded field with 10 other candidates, including former U.S. Senator Bob Smith and former State Senator Jim Rubens, who has significant third party backing. In 2010, Kelly Ayotte emerged from a four-person primary with just 38 percent of the vote. She then went on to a convincing 22-point win in the general election. Similarly, in 2002 Craig Benson captured 37 percent of GOP voters in his three-way primary race en route to the governor’s office.
Both Bob Smith and Jim Rubens bring unique strengths to the table. Smith, who represented New Hampshire in Washington for 18 years, both as a senator and congressman, has strong support among very conservative voters. On the other side of the political spectrum, Rubens has benefitted from the financial support of the liberal Mayday PAC, which has dumped nearly $1 million into attack ads against Scott Brown in the final two weeks of the race.
As Brown’s campaign has gained strength, the outside, third-party groups backing Shaheen have also leapt into action, seeing the primary as their best chance to stop Brown or at least slow his momentum. All told, pro-Jeanne Shaheen/anti-Scott Brown groups are outspending pro-Scott Brown/anti-Jeanne Shaheen groups by more than a two-to-one margin in the two weeks leading up to next Tuesday’s primary.
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We’ve said all along that head-to-head polls between Brown and Shaheen won’t truly reflect the dynamic of the race until the general election when GOP voters put the divided primary behind them and unite behind the nominee. But the race to the airwaves from panicked pro-Shaheen forces – including an accelerated buy from the DSCC and Shaheen herself changing course and now running her own negative ads against Brown before the primary is over – indicates that the Democrats are worried, and for good reason.
As the Union Leader observed, the fact that “liberal PACs are concentrating their increasingly desperate efforts exclusively on Scott Brown” is a clear indicator of the growing threat Brown poses to the Obama/Shaheen agenda.
Instead of being the independent voice she pledged in 2008, Jeanne Shaheen has turned into a reliable rubber stamp, voting with President Obama 99 percent of the time. Instead of campaigning and holding town halls to defend her record, Shaheen has gone into hiding. She hasn’t held a traditional New Hampshire town hall meeting in more than two years. Her Rose Garden strategy consists of tightly-controlled events with limited interactions with the media or members of the public.
Meanwhile, Scott Brown has participated in five debates with his primary opponents, and has held scores of open and unfettered town halls. He’s been speaking directly with the people of New Hampshire about the important issues of the day. He’s running to replace Senator Shaheen’s blank check for Obama with a truly independent check and balance.