Following his expected victory in the Republican primary, the question remains: Can Scott Brown defeat Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in a general election?
So far the early polls have leaned toward “no.” Brown has yet to best his November rival in a single poll on the race. The latest, published Sept. 2 by CBS News/New York Times/YouGov, found the incumbent to be a favorite by 5.4 percent. A Granite State Poll from late August found the two in a virtual dead heat – but Brown still trailed Shaheen by 2 percent. PollTracker also shows Shaheen in the lead, 47.3 percent to 43 percent.
Brown hopes to pick up where Rep. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) left off in 2010, when she defeated Democrat Rep. Paul Hodes by more than 20 points.
Some analysts think that Brown’s chances at defeating Shaheen are not nearly as close as the polls might make it seem.
Nate Silver, who accurately predicted the results of every state during the 2012 presidential election via his blog FiveThirtyEight, puts Brown’s chances of victory at just 10 percent.
New Hampshire Institute of Politics Executive Director Neil Levesque says that Brown needs to “nationalize” his campaign in order for him to have a shot at unseating the incumbent.
“If he nationalizes it and links her to President Obama, who has low numbers here right now, it’s going to be good for him,” Levesque said. “If she continues to do what she’s been doing, which is localizing it and making individual people remember the things she’s done in individual communities, she will most likely be successful.”
Levesque says that Brown will be targeted by his detractors on a number of issues that he will have to actively defend himself against. He says people in the state will hear phrases like “big oil,” which the savvy committees know does not play well with voters in the state.
“If he was viewed as more of a moderate, independent-type person then he would have gotten less support in the primary, but it would have positioned him better for the general election,” Levesque said.
And for Brown, fighting his past, and even some current missteps, might be more of a challenge than Shaheen herself. Since he announced his candidacy for the New Hampshire Senate seat, he has been tagged as a “carpetbagger” and “RINO” by his critics. One academic referred to him as a lobbyist.
Harvard professor and co-founder of the Mayday Super PAC – which endorsed former state Sen. Jim Rubens – Lawrence Lessig sent out mailers calling Brown a “Washington lobbyist” in reference to his role as counsel in Nixon Peabody’s Boston office. The firm announced Brown’s hiring on Mar. 11, 2013, and said in the press release regarding the move that his duties would include “business and governmental affairs as they relate to the financial services industry.”
Brown’s campaign manager, Colin Reed, sent Lessig a “cease and desist” letter, in which he calls Lessig’s claims a “flat out lie.”
The firm did not respond to correspondence seeking information regarding the duties Brown performed during his stint at the firm.
In a Tumblr post regarding the rift, Lessig published the “nastygram” from Reed in full; Lessig did not retract his claims as Reed demanded, despite the threat of legal action.
“So yes, according to the Senate, Scott Brown isn’t a ‘lobbyist.’ But I submit to anyone else in the world, a former Senator joining a ‘law and lobbying firm’ to help with Wall St’s ‘business and governmental affairs’ is to make him a lobbyist,” Lessig wrote. “Because to anyone else in the world, when you sell your influence to affect ‘business and governmental affairs,’ you are a lobbyist.”
Following the row, Lessig challenged Brown to debate the question of whether “it is appropriate to refer to former Members who sell their influence to a lobbying firm actively engaged in affecting legislation as ‘lobbyists.’”
Brown has not responded to Lessig’s challenge.
Even Stephen Colbert took shots at Brown during a recent segment on The Colbert Report. , as we’ll see on the next page.
In the segment Colbert illustrates just one of the hurdles Brown is going to have to overcome in his battle against Shaheen, which is getting the female vote. Using the same Granite State poll that showed Brown closing the gap on Shaheen, Colbert points out that among women Brown is trailing by 14 percent, 53 percent to 39 percent. Colbert mocks Brown for giving a New Hampshire businesswoman a “Women for Scott Brown Hero Award” but failing to accurately identify her name in a press release following the event.
Of course, having endorsed Brown over the likes of Jim Rubens and Bob Smith, the state’s Republican Party feels that Brown stands the best chance to defeat the incumbent in the general election.
In a release following Brown’s primary win, New Hampshire Republican State Committee Chairman Jennifer Horn said that Brown had run “an outstanding campaign” and lauded his position on “limited government and fiscal responsibility.”
“Granite Staters know that Scott will fight to strengthen our economy, repeal ObamaCare and secure our porous border,” the statement said. “He will work with Sen. Kelly Ayotte to restore America’s standing in the world.”
Last Friday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has his own reasons for heading to New Hampshire as a possible 2016 presidential candidate, joined Brown in Durham for a “unity rally” to offer his endorsement.