Brown: Obamacare forces Granite Staters to ‘live free or log on’
By JOHN DiSTASO, Editor
PORTSMOUTH — After nearly a year of flirting with the media and Granite State voters, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown made his candidacy for the U.S. Senate official Thursday night, tearing into Sen. Jeanne Shaheen as an allegiant follower of President Barack Obama and an agenda that has set the nation on the wrong course.
As Brown blasted “the liberal, out-of-touch Shaheen-Obama agenda,” Democrats shot back that Brown is an opportunistic tool of “Big Oil” and conservative advocacy groups, that he is a carpetbagger and that Shaheen is a proven fighter for the Granite State.
Brown’s announcement came as a new WMUR poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center showed Shaheen leading Brown by only 6 percentage points, 45 to 39 percent, with 14 percent undecided and a margin of error of 4.4 percent. The poll also showed, however, that 70 percent of the 507 adults surveyed have not firmly made up their minds.
Brown, before an enthusiastic crowd of about 300 at the Portsmouth Harborside Hotel, accompanied by his wife, two daughters and other family member, focused on his own background and, not surprisingly, Obamacare, saying the health care law forces Granite Staters to “live free or log on.”
The announcement culminated a long ramp up to the candidacy. It is expected to be a bruising race – it has been already – and Brown already has a potentially difficult GOP primary ahead of him against conservatives Bob Smith, a former U.S. senator, veteran activist Karen Testerman and former state Sen. Jim Rubens.
While Brown is expected to win the primary, that is not certain, and if he does the question will remain whether he can draw conservatives and unite the party – something he’ll need to do to defeat Shaheen.
But Shaheen will get strong support from the Democrats inside and outside of the state, just as Brown has been benefitting from millions of dollars worth of advertising from conservative outside interest groups.
Mark MacKenzie, president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, said in an interview before the Brown announcement that Shaheen “has long done everything asked of her for the working men and women of this state.
“The people of New Hampshire have known Jeanne Shaheen for a long time. We’ve worked with her as a state senator, a governor and now as a U.S. senator. She has worked for the betterment of the state on issues ranging from the Berlin paper mills to the minimum wage hike, and so many other issues.”
Brown, however, promised to be a “true independent voice” for the state, and used a play on the state’s famous motto.
“Obamacare forces us to make a choice — live free or log on – and here in New Hampshire, we choose freedom,” he said.
As he did when he announced an exploratory committee nearly a month ago, the Republican former Massachusetts senator tried to deflect attention from his many years living in Massachusetts and emphasize his roots in New Hampshire, particularly the Seacoast.
“Our campaign for the U.S. Senate begins not far from where my life began,” he said. “I was born right over there at the Naval Shipyard,” and he refers to “a house not far from here on Islington Street” as his first home.
Brown also talked about his “Main Streets and Living Rooms” tour that led up to his formal announcement, mentioning visits to the Thomson family’s Mount Cube Sugar Farm in Orford, the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester and the Moose Muck Coffee House in Colebrook.
He talked about his GMC Canyon pickup truck, saying, “It’s got close to 300,000 miles on the odometer, and it’s sure looking good with those license plates that say, ‘Live Free or Die.’”
And he mentioned Granite Staters’ independent streak.
“They want to meet the candidates, look them in the eye, and ask their position on an issue.”
As he has throughout his “exploratory” effort, Brown called Shaheen “a nice person” but focused on her support for Obamacare.
“Whenever President Obama needs her, she’s there,” he said of Shaheen, “and apparently he needs her a lot. Is a rubber stamp what the people of New Hampshire want and expect in a senator?
“All of us were promised by President Obama and Senator Shaheen that if we liked our plan we could keep it. Period. Not true.”
He also noted the law “hasn’t even gone into full effect, yet. The President has taken his pen and pushed it off until after the election.”
“Let me be the one to stop it for you,” he said.
While outside third party interest group are already pouring millions of dollars into the race, Shaheen has pushed Brown to sign the same “People’s Pledge” aimed at limiting such funding he originated in the 2012 Massachusetts senate race, which he lost to Elizabeth Warren.
Shaheen has so far raised more than $7 million during the current cycle, including $1.54 million in the first quarter of 2014, and has $4.35 million on hand. Her campaign released those figures Thursday, just as Brown was set to announce.
“The people of New Hampshire know Jeanne Shaheen,” her campaign manager, Mike Vlachich has said of the former three-term governor. “They know they can depend on her to fight for them and make a difference for New Hampshire.”
MacKenzie, meanwhile, said, “I have no interest in Scott Brown. He is up against a lot of things in New Hampshire. In his own mind, he sees some opportunity in this state, and he is free to do what he wants. But that doesn’t legitimize his candidacy up here.”
Prior to the event, Brown primary foe Rubens said in a statement, “We now have a two-man race between Washington’s pick and grassroots New Hampshire voters who will make their choice on Sept. 9. The Rubens campaign is fully funded and fully staffed. We’re uniting the Republican Party across the spectrum and we will win the September primary and November general.
“The millions in big money necessary to defeat Jeanne Shaheen in November will follow the candidate who wins the September primary,” Rubens said.
Primary opponent Smith reissued his challenge that Brown debate him across the state.
“The party bosses and central planners in Washington and New Hampshire have their candidate now the Republican primary voters can choose their candidate,” he said. “Come on, Scott. The people of New Hampshire deserve to hear us debate the issues.”
Dante Scala, political science professor at the University of New Hampshire, wondered whether Brown will run “seven months of a general election campaign” or whether he “reaches out to conservatives.”
He noted that in 2010 Sen. Kelly Ayotte “was the clear choice of the establishment, but obviously it wasn’t a slam dunk at the end. But she earned enough bona fides by going to local and county meetings to put her over the top at the end.”
Scala noted that Brown skipped a forum in Bedford on Tuesday night.
Although he was not an officially announced candidate on Tuesday, Scala, “How will he approach that in the culture?”
Outside the hotel, small groups of protesters gathered from the Democratic Party as well as conservative Republicans, one of whom carried a sign saying “Senator Blue not Brown.”
Brown was introduced by former Gov. John H. Sununu, who called Shaheen Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s “favorite rubber stamp. She also happens to be Barack Obama’s favorite rubber stamp.”
“This is the third senator from Massachusetts.”