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Brown Falters in Conservative Straw Poll

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith bested his Republican challengers in a July 5 straw poll taken by the Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers, further entrenching Smith as the favorite among conservatives in the state.

The straw poll came during a picnic hosted by the CNHT at an American Legion post in Hillsborough.

Smith garnered 76 votes in his first place showing, while Jim Rubens placed second with 44 votes, despite being endorsed by the group’s leader, Ed Naile, in the race to challenge Jeanne Shaheen’s (D-N.H.) for her Senate seat. Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, whom many have anointed as the most likely to square off against Shaheen, placed third in the poll with 34 votes. Brown is widely viewed as the “establishment” Republican candidate in the race.

Brown announced in June that he had been endorsed by several current and former lawmakers from Hillsborough County, including current Republican state Reps Kathy Stroud and William Infantine.

The Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers describes itself as a conservative grassroots group and a member of the New Hampshire Tea Party Coalition.

Both Smith and Rubens attended the event in person, delivering speeches in front of attendees. Brown, however, was not present at the picnic.

“This is an indication of our grassroots support among conservatives in New Hampshire,” Smith said in a statement following the victory. “I am the only true constitutional conservative who sticks to the Republican Party platform 100 percent.”

During his speech at the event, Rubens briefly discussed his “bold ideas” for “Super WiFi,” education reform and the elimination of energy subsidies. In that speech, he said Super WiFi was the only way people could overcome the monopolies of Time Warner and Comcast.

Rubens has explained that his Super WiFi proposal would employ the unused over-the-air signals that currently exist as WiFi channels that could be used by anyone for free.

His brief discussion of his plan to eliminate the Department of Education elicited cheers from the attendees. That plan involves taking the money allocated for education and giving it back to the states for a voucher program that would allow parents to choose which school they send their children to.

Brian Tilton, Rubens’ communications director, said that Rubens was “eagerly received” at the event and added that Smith’s win was likely due to his pro-life stance, an issue on which Rubens and Smith are at odds. Rubens supports legal availability to abortions but does not want any state money to fund them.

Smith has attacked Rubens for calling himself a “conservative” due to his support for the public financing of elections and his position on the abortion issue.

Climate change is another topic distinguishing Rubens from many of his Republican colleagues, and might turn off some voters. Rubens accepts published climate science, which makes him a lone wolf among candidates for the U.S. Senate.

Jane Aitken, a CNHT executive board member, said Smith’s first place showing in the poll was due to his “good track record” during his time in the Senate and how he has embraced the ideals of “new conservatism.”

“He’s also rethinking issues like NDAA and the Patriot Act because he has seen how this has allowed government to do things it should not be able to do,” Aitken said via email. “He’s a listener and is not set in his ways and will take this information into consideration.”

On the other hand, many conservatives “view [Brown] as a carpetbagger who failed in Massachusetts and is now trying his luck in New Hampshire,” Aitken said. She said Brown is also “not as good on the Second Amendment,” which is a turn-off for conservatives in the state.

Aitken also said that Smith is “very approachable,” while Brown didn’t even show up to the event. That approachability should fare well for Smith – Aitken says the “well informed” voters who make up the CNHT like to ask their questions “up close” and aren’t afraid to ask tough questions.

The organization also asks candidates to sign an “Anti-Tax Pledge.”

The pledge is also known as the Meldrim Thomson Pledge, named after the late New Hampshire governor who served from 1973 to 1979.

Those who take the pledge, if elected, will “oppose all efforts to impose a sales, income or other broadbased tax,” according to the group’s website. The pledge is offered to all candidates in both parties. Both Smith and Rubens have taken the pledge; Brown and Shaheen have not.

Brown will make the trip to Hillsborough County later this month, however. He has a planned campaign stop July 20 at the Hancock Town Library. The event is hosted by the Hancock Republican Town Committee and the Peterborough Republican Town Committee.

Brown has not made any appearances since his campaign stop at Bittersweet Farm last week, where he was officially endorsed by Mitt Romney.

A Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll taken last month found Brown to be the favorite to win the Republican primary. The same poll, however, found that Brown would lose in a general election to Shaheen.

Several attempts to reach out to Scott Brown’s campaign staff regarding this story were not returned.

(For complete 2014 midterm coverage, get your campaign fix on The Grid.)