The results Tuesday of the long, bitter, expensive U.S. Senate race between Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican challenger Scott Brown will ride on three factors.
_ Who’s more motivated to go to the poll.
_ Which side does a better job getting out the vote
_ President Barack Obama
There is little doubt that nationally this is a Republican-leaning year, due to President Obama’s drop in popularity.
Will anti-Obama sentiment in New Hampshire transfer to Shaheen to the degree necessary to carry Brown over the finish line?
According to the latest University of New Hampshire poll for WMUR, only 37 percent of Granite Staters approve of the job Obama is doing, while 57 percent disapprove.
To state the obvious, Jeanne Shaheen has a long history and deep roots in the Granite State. But given her support for the President, has she worn out her welcome? Are Granite Staters ready to turn to Scott Brown to represent them in the U.S. Senate?
Brown has run a strong race, having done the retail necessary work to build his name recognition in New Hampshire while pushing himself as an independent leader ready to cut his own path.
Shaheen has portrayed him as a tool of “Big Oil, Wall Street” and, yes, the Koch brothers. She has portrayed him as a opportunist, a guy who moved here to advance his own political career because he knew he could not win again in Massachusetts and running for President was not feasible.
Those are the competing arguments in a nutshell. Which one will win out in Tuesday’s election?
While Shaheen is being dragged down by Obama, she remains relatively popular in the state as compared to Obama, and also to Brown.
The UNH Survey Center last measured favorable/unfavorable ratings for Shaheen and Brown in early October. At that point, Shaheen was viewed favorably by 50 percent and unfavorably by 36 percent, while Brown was viewed favorably by 29 percent and unfavorably by 48 percent.
Those gaps appear appear to have narrowed considerably however. A Public Policy Polling survey released tonight showed Brown is viewed favorably by 44 percent and unfavorably by 46 percent, while 47 percent approve of Shaheen’s job performancde and 46 percent disapprove.
The PPP poll has Obama’s rating in the same territory as the UNH poll: 36 percent approve and 55 percent disapprove.
Had Shaheen separated herself from Obama on a few important issues, there could very well be no contest here. But Brown focused on her “99 percent of the time” support for Obama, and the President didn’t help by saying that while he is not on the ballot, his policies are. Brown focused on the national issues, especially national security and foreign policies, as did Republicans in the key battleground states – Ebola, ISIS, immigration.
Shaheen focused on her work for the Granite State, describing a lifelong fight to put “New Hampshire first” and her unwavering support for the pro-choice positions on women’s reproductive health issues.
It’s a tall order for Scott Brown to toss Jeanne Shaheen out of office, but it’s been done before – 12 years ago.
The Sununu name was still a household name then, and John E. Sununu had been a three-term congressman from the 1st District going into that Senate race. The nation was still reeling from 9/11. George W. Bush was popular.
In 2008, which was a presidential election year, Shaheen used the same arguments Brown is now using, tying Sununu to Bush, who at that point had become an unpopular.
Democrats are usually given the edge in getting out the vote, and we’re told that the party has outdone itself this time around, with the largest ground game ever implemented during a non-presidential year.
Add to that the organizing effort of the Tom Steyer climate-focused group NextGen-NH, which is said to be nearly equal to “official” Democratic efforts. Organized labor and other progressive organizations are also working the phones hard.
The Democrats have 20 field offices, more than 123 organizers and had 3,200 volunteers knocking on doors or making calls during the weekend – and about 700 volunteers gathered in Nashua for the rally with Hillary Clinton.
Republicans, though, say they have strengthened their GOTV efforts considerably, and while they have not disclosed specific numbers, they now have, according to party spokesman Lauren Zelt, “the strongest ground game and get-out-the-vote effort in history. We have made a record number of voter contacts, and we are confident that our efforts will propel us to victory on Election Day.”
The NHGOP sent out a photo tonight of Brown making the one millionth phone call of its “Victory” program.
The conventional wisdom is that with voters unhappy with Obama and the general direction of the country, GOP-leaning votes will be more motivated to vote tomorrow. The Democrats, such thinking goes, will not be motivated.
We will see.
Secretary of State Bill Gardner has predicted, by the way, that 464,000 New Hampshire voters, or 53 percent of registered votes, will cast ballots.
Besides candidate spending totaling about $7 million by Brown and about $13 million by Shaheen, outside special interest spending on the race has surpassed $31 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets.org.
According to the CRP, spending has totaled $3.6 million in favor of Brown and $13.8 million to oppose him. Outside spending in favor of Shaheen has totaled $1.2 million, and $9.9 million against her.
The Center reports that the biggest spender was the conservative Ending Spending Action Fund, formed by conservative billionaire Joe Ricketts, which spent $4 million against Shaheen. Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate has spent $3.7 million in opposition to Brown, according to OpenSecrets.org.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spent $3.8 million, and Harry Reid’s Senate Majority PAC, $3.4 million, against Brown. The National Republican Senatorial Committee spent $1.2 million, American Crossroads, $2.6 million, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also $2.6 million, against Shaheen.
In the other top races, Republican Walt Havenstein has come on strong at the since mid-October, to the point where his challenge of Gov. Maggie Hassan could be another nail-biter.
Hassan is still considered in a strong positon for reelection, but again, if there is a GOP wave of any considerable strength, there may be an upset here as well.
As for the congressional races, we’ve seen nothing to change our earlier assessment that the 1st District s also very much up for grabs. This district is about as susceptible to the national trends as any, as shown by the swings from 2008, when Shea-Porter won, to 2010, when Guinta won, to 2012, when Shea-Porter regained the seat.
For that reason, Guinta has the edge this time, but it’s far from a slam dunk, and recent polling has shown both Guinta up substantially and the race tied.
Rep. Ann Kuster has the edge in the 2nd District simply by the overwhelming advantage she and her allies have displayed in advertising over Marilinda Garcia and groups supporting her.
Strangely, much of the support that had been expected from key pro-GOP groups did not materialize for Garcia, and Kuster effectively painted her as an “extremist.” But Garcia has run a solid issues-based campaign while also raising legitimate concerns about Kuster – including her delinquencies on $40,000 of her own property taxes.
Even if she loses tomorrow, Garcia has a bright future in GOP politics, should she choose to pursue it.