New Hampshire Independents: Scott Brown’s Best Chance for Victory

In the GOP’s attempt to retake the Senate in 2014 the way they reclaimed the House 4 years earlier there are already several authentic battleground states from Alaska to Louisiana. New Hampshire is not exactly grouped with those tough races, but Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen may have a difficult time nonetheless.

New Hampshire, the first primary state in presidential election cycles, is a significant state not only because of its primary position, but because the primary is open to independents. Independents make up a plurality of voters and they just so happen to have been pivotal to Scott Brown’s lone success in 2010.

Brown is epitomizing the proverb, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” by possibly crossing state lines to make a Senate run for a third time in 4 years. The first was in Massachusetts’ 2010 special election to fill the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s seat. He followed that up in his first full general election cycle only to lose to another Senate newcomer, Elizabeth Warren.

Now, Brown is exploring the chance to run in neighboring New Hampshire against Sen. Shaheen.

New Hampshire’s significant independent population shows in recent elections for both senators and representatives. These contests have generally been very close with common turnover.

In 2010, in the last Granite State senate race, tea party favorite Kelly Ayotte claimed the seat left vacant by moderate Republican Judd Gregg. Another Tea Party favorite, Rep. Frank Guinta, defeated incumbent Carol Shea-Porter only to lose to her in 2012. The latter victory came with both politicians receiving less than 50 percent and a Libertarian candidate gaining over 4 percent.

The other half of the state’s congressional delegation, Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D), also saw a close victory over incumbent and 2010 Republican opponent Charles Bass. The Libertarian candidate garnered nearly 4.5 percent in that close race as well.

These close elections show the strength of third party candidates and the impact it has on the competition. Should Brown decide to run, he can’t go too far to the right and expect to get past the primary.

Brown is not unlike Republicans in their discontent with the Affordable Care Act or the general theme of small government, but he does have an independent mind that sometimes sets him apart from his conservative colleagues.

Shaheen has been in New Hampshire decades longer than Brown and is more familiar with what it takes to win over independents. She is a former governor and the first female to be called governor and senator from the same state.

Brown’s toughest primary opponent, should he declare his candidacy, will be former New Hampshire Senator Robert Smith. Smith has something in common with Brown: He ran for senate twice in another state, Florida.

As a bellwether state, New Hampshire could be a case study for how the Democrats could either maintain their authority by appealing to independents or how the GOP could gain the upper hand in the upper chamber through the same route. Evangelical flag-bearers in presidential elections past, like Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012, did not fare well. They came in third and fifth, respectively.

Brown is likely to turn his exploratory campaign into a full-blown one because he is the most formidable GOP contender and it is enough to at least change the state from favoring Democrats to leaning Democratic by many reports. Unfortunately nothing is certain in politics and independents have a lot of sway in New Hampshire.

Photo Credit: The Holliston-Hopkinton Patch