With Strategies Missing the Mark, Shaheen Edge on Brown Narrows to 2 Points

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.