Scott Brown’s recent announcement he is all but certain to enter the Senate race in New Hampshire has Republicans gleefully eyeing making Democrats battle for another competitive Senate seat. Brown has toyed with the idea for months and recently formed an Exploratory Committee. Well, that lasted about two weeks before he all but made it official he was entering the race.
Before Brown entered the race, Republicans had a subpar field to take on Senator Jean Shaheen. None had polled near Shaheen. Admittedly, Brown starts off as an underdog to Shaheen. Brown polls behind her but due to the lateness of the state primary and his national network of donors, Brown has time and money on his side to turn around his fortunes. It also helps that nobody in the primary field appears likely to be able to challenge his effort.
It is no secret that Democrats face a tough midterm environment this cycle. Democrats are defending 23 Senate seats to 10 seats for Republicans. Republicans are set to gain open seats in West Virginia, North Dakota and Montana while also being competitive in deeply red states such as Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska and North Carolina. To make matters worse for Democrats are that purple states such as Michigan, Colorado and now New Hampshire are set to see competitive races this cycle. Thus, Democratic resources are set to be stretched that much thin.
But does Scott Brown have a realistic shot at winning New Hampshire? After-all, the state went deep blue in 2008, deep red in 2010 and back to deep blue in 2012. More so, Brown is vying to be the first Senator since the 19th century to represent two states in his Senate career. Democrats argue no and Republicans have a viable reason to be optimistic. Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
I won’t rehash all the demographic or voting characteristics of New Hampshire. If you want a longer analysis you can read it here. Basically, as go Rockingham and Hillsborough counties go New Hampshire. In 2010, Kelly Ayotte carried both easily while in 2012 Romney and Obama split them. Heading into 2014 it is imperative that Brown win both and by fairly decisive margins. If he does not he will struggle to make up the margins in the more traditionally Democratic North and Western counties of the state.
Democrats would be wise to realize the impact Obamacare could have on the race. The recently concluded special election in Florida showed the issue still has salience in purple/swing districts and states. So far, Shaheen has not been targeted heavily by GOP outside groups on the issue. However, with Brown in the race, these groups now have a candidate they can expect to make the race competitive and thus may be incentivized to get involved. Americans for Prosperity has already spent over $30 million on ads across the country. Crossroads 360, an establishment backed 3rd Party Group, is also likely to spend on the race. Voters will know that Shaheen voted for the law by the time November rolls around.
Whether Obamacare is enough to swing the race by itself is unclear this early in the cycle. Shaheen is not without her attacks though. With Brown in the race, her campaign will be sure to play up the notion he is a carpetbagger and would not represent the best interests of the state in DC. Brown formerly represented the state of Massachusetts from 2010-2012. Of course Brown can make the same argument based on her votes for Obamacare. Shaheen’s campaign will also attempt to parallel a familiar national Democratic attack against the GOP based on the party being in bed with the Koch brothers.
These attacks may only go so far. Brown has a moderate profile which should not turn off moderate Independents in the state. He also has a centrist fiscal profile, despite his call to repeal Obamacare, that may peel off swing Democrats from Shaheen’s camp. For her part, Shaheen is an unabashed liberal who is still fairly popular in the state. Brown’s favorable ratings in the state have swung depending on the poll.
Whichever way this race goes national Republicans are only so happy to make Democrats to defend another seat. Republicans do not need the state to shift the Senate if they take a Colorado, a Michigan and/or six of the seven Senate seats Democrats are defending in states Romney carried in 2012. However, if Republicans lose Kentucky or Georgia the state would provide a buffer for their loss. Regardless, Brown’s entry into the race signifies yet another prominent Republican is sensing blood in the water for Democrats. Democrats may not want to admit it but there is blood in the water and Republicans seem eager to exploit it in purple/swing states like New Hampshire.