SATURDAY, NOV. 15: THE LIGHTNING ROD. Eleven days after Republican Scott Brown lost his tough battle with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, his camp is re-emerging with a post mortem on the election.
Sure, Brown lost. That’s the bottom line. But in doing so and making it a tough battle, Brown drew Democratic money that otherwise would have been spent in other battlegrounds across the country. And, according to a Brown adviser, he contributed to the GOP takeover of the U.S. Senate.
Before Brown got into the race, the view was that the New Hampshire seat would be an easy hold for the Democrats. No one who had been discussed pre-Brown as possible GOP contenders would have been able to match his fundraising ability or star power, even if that star power came with the down side of being forced to deal with accusations being a carpetbagger and a tool of “Big Oil” and Wall Street.
But once Brown began acting like a future candidate – even before he formally moved to New Hampshire – Shaheen and Democrats began putting out fundraising emails warning that he was headed our way and seeking contributions.
No sooner did Brown enter the race in April than Sen. Harry Reid’s Senate Majority PAC aired its first ad of the cycle – anywhere – attacking Brown.
In the end, as we have reported, the Center for Responsive Politics OpenSecrets.org found that outside groups spent $13.5 million opposing Brown and $1.2 million supporting Shaheen. Pro-Brown groups spent $9.9 million attacking Shaheen and $3.7 million supporting Brown.
That anti-Brown money, the Brown adviser pointed out, would have otherwise gone to Louisiana, Iowa, North Carolina, Colorado and other competitive races.
Also, Shaheen outraised Brown, $14 million to $7 million.
“New Hampshire wasn’t in play and then Scott Brown got in and it was in play,” the adviser said. Brown had seven months to introduce himself to a new electorate and turn the negatives around and, as the adviser said, “topple the founder of the modern Democratic Party in New Hampshire” – Shaheen.
A double-digit lead for Shaheen in most polling during the summer turned into a single digit lead, or a dead heat, in the fall. Shaheen, due to the huge get-out-the-vote effort by the Democrats, ended up winning by a significant margin for a GOP year after being tied to an unpopular President – 16,000 votes, or 4 percentage points. And exit polls showed the polling in New Hampshire at “D+1,” which explains why it was not subject to the national trend as strongly as other states.
But Brown’s joint fund-raising with the National Republican Senatorial Committee raised $1.3 million, which was sent back to the state Republican Party for get-out-the-vote efforts that, while not saving Brown or Walt Havenstein or Marilinda Garcia, was helpful to the GOP down the ballot as it took back the state House of Representatives and the Executive Council.
The Brown adviser said the campaign was among the first, if not the first, to bring national issues to the campaign – the ‘Affordable Care Act, ISIS, immigration, Ebola.
While the strategy predictably won praise among conservative news outlets, it also was described as effective by NBC New, CNN and the National Journal.
The bottom line of course is that Scott Brown lost. He had momentum two weeks to 10 days out, but lost it as Shaheen regained her footing in the final debate and tied Brown, who had won the first two debates easily.
Her campaign was vintage Shaheen – essentially she “is” New Hampshire and Scott Brown was not – and the ground game was superior on the Democratic side.
There are no prizes for finishing second in politics, but that said, it was not a bad effort.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY. Since our Thursday analysis of Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s dive into the race for New Hampshire House Speaker between Gene Chandler and Bill O’Brien, there has been much speculation on why she would weigh in.
While some Republican acvtivists said the move was to allow Ayotte to “insulate” herself from O’Brien and the possibility of another controversial O’Brien stint as speaker, the other side of the story is that Ayotte simply believes, genuinely, that Chandler is the better candidate.
“There is no conspiracy,” we were told by a Republican who professed knowledge of Ayotte’s reasoning. “It was an honest endorsement. And it was not meant to damage Bill O’Brien or be personal.”
It was also pointed out that Ayotte has not shied away from being involved in primaries in the past. She backed Scott Brown in his primary. She backed Mitt Romney in the presidential primary.
She was also an early endorser in the last race for state party chairman, backing Jennifer Horn. And Ayotte was a key player in the move that resulted in Jack Kimball’s resignation as party chair in 2011.
DAY HITS “MISCREANTS.’’ Meanwhile, Aaron Day, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire – which has backed Bill O’Brien for Speaker – on Friday night released a scathing statement calling those who signed the pro-Chandler letter “miscreants.”
Other than Ayotte, they were former Govs. John H. Sununu and Steve Merrill, former U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass and former House Speakers Donna Sytek and Doug Scamman.
The toughly-worded “guest column,” says in part: “Three of the miscreants—Kelly Ayotte, Charlie Bass, and Steve Merrill—have never been members of the New Hampshire House, and have neither understanding nor respect for the institution and its independence.” (That’s actually partially incorrect: Bass served in the New Hampshire House from 1982 to 1988 before winning a state Senate seat.)
“Another signer,” Day continues, “is Doug Scamman, a notorious turncoat who in 2004 betrayed his own party by scheming with the Democrats to get himself elected Speaker. It is nothing short of scandalous that this betrayer of the Republican Party should be signing a letter in favor of Gene Chandler. Except for Kelly Ayotte, who should know better, these people are yesterday’s Republicans trying to pull strings for their old friend Gene Chandler. By sticking their noses into the Speaker’s race, they disgrace themselves and show why the new Republican majority should most definitely elect Bill O’Brien to the Speakership.”
MIKE WAS THERE. As we reported earlier this week veteran Manchester political strategist Mike Biundo was at the table at the closed door session of Sen. Rand Paul’s inner circle as plans were laid for his 2016 run for President.
There been much written about the meeting nationally, but what hasn’t been written – until now—is that Biundo had a special role as one of a handful of speakers at the dinner meeting.
As might be expected, he was a key participant in a discussion of the importance New Hampshire has played and will play in the presidential nominating process and the importance of a strong grassroots campaign.
We understand Biundo also talked about his experience in 2012 as national campaign manager for Rick Santorum’s campaign and then as deputy director of coalitions for Mitt Romney’s general election effort.
A NEW CHIEF. The big talk at the State House this week – other than the lead-up to the House GOP caucus on Tuesday — was the resignation of Jay Flanders as chief of staff for the state Senate.
He is being replaced by Kristy Merrill, the wife of veteran GOP strategist Jim Merrill, and a State House veteran who has most recently been the Policy Director for the Senate.
Why the switch? Flanders was hired by the previous Senate President, Peter Bragdon, who stepped aside to head the Health Trust, Inc. and was succeeded by Chuck Morse, who is essentially putting his own person in the top position.
Flanders was also in charge when the Senate was reported having spent $15,000 on new furniture after Gov. Maggie Hassan had asked lawmakers to freeze hiring, equipment purchases and out-of-state state travel – a story that arose during the height of the last campaign. Whether that was in the mix is subject to speculation.
FINAL CAMPAIGN SPENDING REPORTS. Final state campaign finance reports for the governor’s race showed that Gov. Maggie Hassan and Republican challenger Walt Havenstein each raised and spent about $1.5 million in the general election.
Total spending in the race, including during the months leading to the Sept. 9 primary, was about $5.5 million with Havenstein spending a $2.9 million, including $2 million of his own money, and Hassan spending $2.8 million.
As for key legislative PACs, the Senate Republican Majority PAC spent nearly $300,000, while the New Hampshire Senate Democratic Caucus spent $527,000. The Committee to Elect House Democrats spent $149,000, while the Committee to Elect House Republicans spent $65,000.
(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.)