Will Republican and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown catch lightning in a bottle a second time by defeating his Democratic opponent, New Hampshire Senator and former Governor Jeanne Shaheen in November? Leading indicators from past elections and the current political environment make the case that he could.
Let’s start with recent public opinion research which finds Brown gaining enthusiasm and solidifying support in the state’s Republican base.
A survey by the University of New Hampshire showed Brown now winning more than 75% of Republicans. To be sure, he will need to improve that number into the 90s to succeed in November.
Fortunately for Brown, this is well within reach given that the Republican primary election does not happen until September 9 and he has the best chance of earning the votes of his Republican opponents in the general election.
The UNH poll also indicates that President Obama’s anemic job approval rating will be a factor in the race. Voters’ attitudes do not suggest, at this point, that they are looking to send the president a message by voting against Shaheen. Still, it’s clear that they are seeking answers to the challenges our country faces and that they don’t feel their current elected officials are delivering those answers.
This opening gives Brown the opportunity to address their concerns, offer his solution and win their vote. His never-ending series of town hall meetings are giving voters who like to hear and meet their candidates exactly what they want. His town halls are becoming a common venue for voters to express their frustration with ObamaCare.
Senator Shaheen’s decisive vote for the president’s health care system has resulted in New Hampshire voters seeing their insurance plans canceled, pushing thousands into health exchanges and leaving many facing unaffordable premium increases. With most voters having already formed their opinion on this issue, it may not be one that persuades them on how to vote. However, it is an issue that will drive to the polls those who want the promise fulfilled of being able to keep their plan if they like it.
Another indicator that can’t be overlooked is that unlike most of the rest of the states in the New England region which are reliable for the Democrats, New Hampshire is a competitive one.
Voters in the state have given Republicans many victories (recently 1994, 2000 and 2010) when the national political environment is as favorable as it this year.
They have also sent Republicans to defeat when the national political environment was with the Democrats (2006, 2008 and 2012).
The difference in the composition of the electorate in midterms vs. presidential elections is one reason for the state’s politically competitive nature. Exit polls showed that party identification in 2010 boosted Republicans by 3 percentage points -- 30% to 27%. In contrast, party identification in 2012 boosted Democrats by 3 percentage points -- 30% to 27%.
In addition, independent voters have shown a propensity to favor Republicans in the midterm elections. For example, in 2010, Sen. Kelly Ayotte earned a 26 point advantage when she received a decisive 61% of the votes cast by independents compared to her opponents 35%.
In contrast, in 2012, Mitt Romney suffered a 7 point deficit with independent voters when President Obama received 52% to Romney’s forty-five percent.
These factors are among the many that explain why New Hampshire is the ultimate swing state and why the turnover rate amongst elected officials is as high as any state in the country.
Moving on to the Democrat’s narrative that Brown can not win because he is not a long time New Hampshire resident, keep in mind, they are saying it to a significant percentage of the electorate who also moved into the state.
A recent New York Times study found that 25% of residents were born in Massachusetts and another 8% were born in one of the other northeastern states. These findings mirror a 2008 study by the University of New Hampshire which reported that 57% percent of the population of New Hampshire was born outside the state. To put it in perspective, the national average is about 40%.
The reality is that more than a third of the population has moved into New Hampshire does not give Brown an edge. It is the reason why they moved to New Hampshire that does. They live there to escape the hustle and bustle of Boston coupled with the excessive tax burdens and high cost of living associated with big governments that personify the region.
Voters seeking lower taxes and limited government are natural constituencies for Brown.
With a favorable political environment in a competitive state, a strong message, and a passion for retail politics, Scott Brown has the combination needed to capture the lightning to power Republicans to a majority in the U.S. Senate.