Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) leads Scott Brown in a slew of recent polls, but the trends are not going in her favor.
The last five polls on the race have the incumbent ahead by an average of just 2.2 percent. Four of the polls, from American Research Group, CBS News/New York Times/YouGov, WMUR/University of New Hampshire and New England College, were taken between Sept. 20 and Oct. 5. The latest, from Survey USA/High Point University, gives her just a 2-point lead over the Republican.
The Survey USA/High Point University poll is the first published after the two met at an untelevised debate on Oct. 6. The new poll seems to indicate, for now, that Shaheen’s once steady, but never sizeable, lead to retain her seat is shrinking as the candidates prepare to meet in two televised debates on Oct. 21 and 23.
Shaheen has worked to localize this race – and it seemed to be paying dividends. The AAG poll had her up by as much as 10 points – her widest margin since a Sept. 9 New England College poll.
In her efforts to localize, while Brown nationalizes, her campaign has released a series of “New Hampshire First” ads – a message that resonates with voters because of Brown’s ties to Massachusetts, where he served as a senator from 2010 to 2013.
“I don’t just talk about putting New Hampshire first,” Shaheen says, closing out the ad titled “Battling.” “I’ve spent my life doing it.”
This isn’t to say that Shaheen has focused her campaign on entirely New Hampshire-centric issues. As Brown has made veterans affairs, foreign relations and immigration sticking points on his campaign stops and in his own ads, a pro-amnesty group, the Council for American Job Growth, is spending nearly $1 million on a 10-day pro-Shaheen television ad campaign.
The Council for American Job Growth has ties to the Mark Zuckerberg-founded FWD.us. The group advocates for immigration reform, an issue on which the candidates appear divided. Shaheen backs the bipartisan immigration reform plan forged in part by Sen Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), while Brown has said it doesn’t do enough to protect America’s borders. Rubio has endorsed Brown in this race.
Although the group’s mission is driven by amnesty policy, the ad, titled “A Lot,” focuses on veterans affairs. It features veterans telling their stories of how Shaheen has reformed the veterans’ healthcare system in the state through her work passing the VA Reform Bill. The ad points to the VA hospital that opened in Keene in 2011, and to another that is opening in Colebrook, as examples of how Shaheen is using her post to benefit New Hampshire veterans.
The $16.3 billion bipartisan reform package allows veterans to access healthcare outside of VA hospitals and provides more funds to the VA to hire medical professionals. It was signed into law on Aug. 7.
In addition to the ad-buy boost by the Council for American Job Growth, the senator will be joined on the campaign trail by Hillary Clinton on Nov. 2 – just three days before the general election. Clinton garnered 60 percent of the support by New Hampshire respondents in a September CNN/ORC poll gauging potential 2016 presidential candidates.
Shaheen is currently embarked on a “Senator New Hampshire Women Can Trust Tour,” focusing on a demographic she has polled better with than Brown. In the UNH/WMUR poll, 56 percent of women had a favorable view of Shaheen, compared to Brown’s 43 percent.
Women’s issues have bubbled to the top of the conversation after the Shaheen campaign released an ad called “Force.” The ad alleges that in 2005, while serving Massachusetts, Brown sponsored a bill that forced women considering abortion to look at “color photographs” of aborted fetuses.
The bill’s text does mention showing pregnant patients color photographs but does not appear it would have forced women to look at pictures of aborted fetuses – instead it would have provided patients with “a description of the probable anatomical and physiological characteristics of the unborn child at two-week gestational increments from fertilization to full term, including color photographs or if a representative photograph is not available, realistic drawings of the developing unborn child.”
Brown responded with an ad of his own, calling Shaheen’s attacks a “smear campaign.”
“I’m pro-choice,” Brown says in the spot. “I support continued funding for Planned Parenthood and I believe women should have access to contraception.”
Brown, a father of two daughters, called the ad “insensitive” and “offensive” on a campaign stop in Derry with Rubio. In a statement he also points to his “yes” vote for the Violence Against Women Act and “no” vote for cuts to Planned Parenthood. While the two were Senate colleagues, Brown also voted in favor of the so-called “Shaheen Amendment” to protect female service members who are sexual assault victims.
One of Brown’s daughters, Ayla, also weighed in on the controversy with a letter to Foster’s Daily Democrat.
“[Shaheen] should be ashamed of herself for playing politics with women’s health,” Ayla wrote. “There have been a lot of negative ads, but this one crosses the line.”
Shaheen’s campaign did not respond to correspondence regarding the ad.