SATURDAY, NOV. 1: WHERE THEY STAND TODAY. We’ll have more to say about all of the top races on Monday, but for now, suffice to say the U.S. Senate race truly is too close to call.
From the experts we have spoken with and our own “feel” for the race after three decades of covering these things, neither candidate has a substantial lead, despite a few polls indicating otherwise on either side.
We believe the race is virtually tied, with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen at this point with a lead of a point or two, within any reasonable margin of error. But today doesn’t count. Tuesday does. And the Granite State could also be called The Late Breaking State, as voters are finally focusing this weekend – before and after the Patriots-Broncos game, of course.
Yes, for many it took this long.
The feel of the Senate race today is that Scott Brown’s momentum from a week ago – after the first two debates – has slowed, but that’s not to say the race is over.
The momentum will build again during this weekend – on both sides – with Hillary Clinton coming into the state on Sunday for Shaheen and Brown and the GOP doing a statewide bus tour that began on Friday.
This year’s election is expected to favor the GOP nationally, but in New Hampshire, and for the very familiar Shaheen, the question is, will there be a wave big enough to sweep her away?
There’s a different feel for the governor’s race. It’s not out of the question that Walt Havenstein can pull off the upset if there is a strong GOP wave, but it’s doubtful.
The same goes for Marilinda Garcia, despite her strong campaign and ability to politely (perhaps too politely) fend off repeated interruptions from Rep. Ann Kuster during their two debates.
Kuster and her allies seem at this point to have been more successful at portraying Garcia as a right wing extremist than Garcia and her supporters have been at portraying Kuster as a left-wing extremist. Advantage Kuster – today.
In the 1st District, Guinta has the edge, but never, ever underestimate the ability of Carol Shea-Porter to get out the vote.
FRIDAY, OCT. 31: HEADING NORTHWEST. Jeanne Shaheen and Scott Brown headed straight to Sullivan County on Friday following an exchange during Thursday night’s WMUR/Union Leader debate about the county that resulted in one of the journalist questioners apologizing to Brown.
Brown today accepted the apology from James Pindell of WMUR television.
During a hard-hitting debate that showed sharp contrasts between the candidates on foreign policy, immigration and national and state economic issues, Pindell asked Brown, who moved to the state full-time earlier this year, to discuss the specific economic needs of Sullivan County.
It was a line of questioning that any objective observer would agree was aimed at trying to show that Brown had a less detailed understanding of New Hampshire than Shaheen, who has been a state senator, a three-term governor and now a U.S. Senator.
Here’s the exchange between Pindell and Brown:
Pindell: “When it comes to jobs and the economy, we have a big picture conversation. But I want to drill down to Main Street here in New Hampshire. You both live on the Seacoast, so let’s go to the western part of the state and let’s talk about Sullivan County. Senator Brown, what do you see going right in the economy in Sullivan County, and what’s going wrong, and please be specific.”
Brown: “Well, you’re absolutely right. Geography plays a role. Along the southern border we have more jobs, we have more opportunity; infrastructure and other opportunities up north are difficult. And one of the biggest opportunities is tourism. One of the biggest opportunities are our ski areas and trails for snowmobiles. I support those efforts. I know Senator Shaheen references a tourist bill. The biggest wet blanket right now on the economy in that area is Obamacare. It’s also those notices that people are getting – 50 to 100 percent increases on their electric rates. Rates are not going down. In addition to that, you have a situation where getting from point A to point B and inspiring businesses to stay there is problematic. Because, what are they looking at? Highest corporate tax rates in the industrialized world, Obamacare …”
Pindell (interrupting): “We’re talking about Sullivan County, and I think you were talking about the North Country? So what do you see as going well in Sullivan County, or not?”
Brown: “I’m talking about any place past Concord, actually, and the challenges of our state. So I’m referring to the challenges including the high corporate tax rate, Obamacare coming in after the election. We also have the challenges of high electric costs. If you go to any business in any county in our state those are the very real challenges. One of the …”
Pindell (interrupting): “Sullivan County is west of Concord. It’s not North of Concord, Senator Brown. So what do you see as going well or what’s not going well there?”
Brown: “With respect, I’ve answered the question. The challenge is the same in every county in our state.”
Pindell then turned to Shaheen, saying: “Senator Shaheen, of course you’ve been that county’s governor and senator for 12 years. So what problems remain there, why are they unresolved and what are you going to do about it?”
Shaheen: “Well, when I was governor we helped lower electric rates in Sullivan County because that was one of the big issues they we still facing. Now, fortunately, they are able to be more competitive. We’ve worked with them on what are called new market tax credits so they can attract a number of new industries into Claremont.”
She went on to say she worked on getting a Department of Labor grant for aid community technical colleges.
Shaheen said the different answers showed a key difference between her and Brown because, she said, as a senator, she has supported small businesses and he has backed “the big guys, the corporate special interests” and subsidies for oil companies.
The Shaheen campaign and Democrats pounced on what they considered a major gaffe by Brown regarding the location of Sullivan County relative to Concord.
But the fact is that the great majority of Sullivan County lies to the northwest of Concord. A small portion of the southern end of the county lies directly west, and some towns even lie a bit to the southwest.
Pindell later apologized for the error, saying on WMUR’s 11 p.m newscast, “I said Sullivan County was west of Concord, not north of Concord. The truth is, it’s both, so on this point, Scott Brown was right, I was wrong and I apologize to Scott Brown and to both campaigns.”
He wrote on Friday, “When a reporter – or a debate panelist – becomes the story then they failed…where Sullivan County lies is irrelevant, but the tone I took with the Senator is relevant. I’m sorry for both.”
Brown, in Newport this morning, told reporters, “Everything I said was 100 percent accurate and I’m encouraged by the fact that he apologized and that certainly I accept his apology.”
Pindell, however, was criticized on national television and elsewhere.
“You know this is why people hate the press,” veteran political reporter/analyst Cokie Roberts, formerly of ABC News, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program with Joe Scarborough, “is having that guy just sort of ask that same little question over and over again like that.
“And he was just trying to be so smart,” Roberts said. “And of course he turned out not to be. And I think Scott Brown handled it very well….And he didn’t get flustered by it, which was the point. The point was to fluster him and to show him as a carpetbagger. That is the biggest strike against him, but it ended up being a much bigger strike against the member of my trade.”
There were also stories about it today on CNN.com, the Washington Post, the Daily Caller, National Review, the Huffington Post, Fox News and other national and local media sources.
After the debate, Shaheen’s campaign quickly had a statement out from Claremont Mayor James Nielsen criticizing Brown, while Brown’s campaign said that in the exchange with Pindell, Brown was referring to the Mount Sunapee ski area, which is at least partially in Sullivan County.
Shaheen headed to Claremont for a get-out-the-vote rally, while Brown went to a restaurant in Newport to meet with area business owners.
SATURDAY, NOV. 1: SHAHEEN COMEBACK. Ironically, it’s too bad for Sen. Shaheen that questioner Pindell received the headlines, because after tentative performances in last week’s debates, the senator on Thursday night made a comeback.
She was forceful, to the point and did not waver in her answers. Brown was also strong and consistent, as he was last week, but this time, Shaheen fought him to a draw.
Brown, after all, is simply a confident person and a confident, polished debater. He entered all of the debates with the upper hand – and by that we mean, in terms of pure debating skills.
But Shaheen, while certainly not as smooth, was on point and far more confident this time around.
Debating ISIS, Shaheen was clear in her position against ground troops. But Brown, too, scored points when he criticized her for calling American troops “an occupying force.”
“We are a liberating force and not an occupying force, senator, and I and every other person who served in the military resent the fact that you are calling us occupiers,” he said.
But Shaheen made a strong point trying to distance herself from President Obama’s intention to address immigration by executive order after the election.
“I don’t think the President should take any action on immigration because we have…that the Senate passed with a strong bipartisan vote that accomplishes comprehensive immigration reform,” she said.
Shaheen was also effective in answering a question about Brown moving to New Hampshire.
“It’s not a problem that Hillary Clinton moved to New York or that Scott Brown moved to New Hampshire,” she said. “The question is not where he’s from. The question is what he’s for.”
She cited her support for and Brown’s opposition to the Small Business Jobs Act, het support for and Brown’s opposition to a bill to promote tourism from outside of the United States. She cited his support for continued oil company subsidies.
But Brown held his own by pointing out that Sen. Kelly Ayotte and former Sen. Judd Gregg also opposed those bills, and said the biggest threat to small businesses, including ski operators, is the Affordable Care Act.
Shaheen said that on Ebola, ISIS and immigration, Brown has been “using the concern that people have, really fear-mongering that concern for his own political purposes.” Then a sharp attack: “A leader should be serious, should alert people to what’s going on with issues, but not try and grandstand on them.”
Brown, however, made the good point that members of the military will be mandatorily quarantined when they return from Ebola-stricken areas, “yet the President says it needs to be voluntary” for civilians. He called a travel ban and mandatory quarantine “common sense, it’s not fear-mongering.”
But Shaheen shot back that by supporting funding cuts for the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, “my opponent talks about this issue but he doesn’t want to do the hard work to address it.”
Overall it was a good duel. Both survived.
SATURDAY, NOV. 1: HEAD SCRATCHER. Speaking of debates, the biggest head scratcher we saw was in the 2nd District faceoff between Rep. Ann Kuster and Marilinda Garcia over Kuster’s delinquency on property taxes.
An ad was shown that brought up the fact – and it is a fact – that Kuster was delinquent on about $40,000 in personal property taxes on two homes over a three-year period.
“Aside from it being not true,” said Kuster, “The point is our taxes are paid in full and they have been for several years and Ms. Garcia knows that.”
Not true? In fact it is true that she was delinquent on those taxes for a three year period beginning in 2010. Kuster admitted as much and even apologized for it when the story broke in February 2013.
It is true that Kuster paid up the taxes and one must assume she is accurate when she says that her taxes are now “paid in full and they have been for several years.”
But to say that it was “not true” that there was a delinquency was, well, simply not true.
SATURDAY, NOV. 1: RASMUSSEN: SHAHEEN UP 7. Rasmussen Reports’ final survey of the New Hampshire Senate race has Sen. Jeanne Shaheen leading Republican challenger Scott Brown, 52 to 45 percent, with 1 percent preferring another candidate and 2 percent undecided.
A total of 940 likely voters were polled Oct. 29 and 30, and the margin of error was 3 percent.
SATURDAY, NOV. 1: GOP POLL SHOWS WALT UP. A new poll by the GOP pollster Vox Populi released Friday Republican gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein now leads Gov. Maggie Hassan 47 to 44 percent, with 8 percent unsure. Despite winning New Hampshire in 2012, President Obama’s approval ratings stand at a mere 41 percent.
Vox Populi had Hassan leading Havenstein by 13 percentage points in May and by four percentage points in September.
The margin of error for the poll is listed at 3.9 percent.
(John DiStaso is news editor of the New Hampshire Journal and the most experienced political columnist/reporter in New Hampshire. He has been reporting on Granite State politics since 1982. Watch for updates of his Granite Reports column and of course separate stories on NHJournal.com as news breaks. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @jdistaso.)