If Brown joins U.S. Senate race, national money, attention to follow
FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2012, file photo, then-Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., waves to supporters from his bus after a campaign rally at Faneuil Hall in Boston. Three years ago, Brown was a little-known Republican state senator from Massachusetts who shocked Democrats by winning a U.S. Senate seat. Now, having compiled a voting record more moderate than his tea party allies would have liked and losing his bid for a full term, Brown is considering whether to seize a second chance to return to the Senate in another special election. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen meets with the Monitor for an editorial review board; Monday, March 21, 2011.
In their 2008 U.S. Senate race, Jeanne Shaheen and John E. Sununu combined to raise about $17 million, a total dwarfed by the $70 million Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren raised just four years later in Massachusetts.
The Brown-Warren Senate race was the most expensive in the country that year, even though both candidates pledged to limit the amount of outside money spent on their behalf from national parties and super PACs.
With Brown now fighting for Shaheen’s New Hampshire Senate seat, and his refusal to sign a similar pledge this time around, their 2014 Senate race could be New Hampshire’s most expensive ever.
Television ads have already flooded the airwaves in New Hampshire.
“Tell Sen. Shaheen it’s time to be honest. Obamacare doesn’t work,” proclaimed an ad by Americans for Prosperity that’s run hundreds of times at a cost of $700,000.
“Scott Brown’s gone to Washington, and something’s gone horribly wrong. Brown sided with Big Oil,” declared a February ad from the League of Conservation Voters that ran more than 100 times on WMUR in February, at a cost of $200,000.
Crossroads GPS, a super PAC run by Karl Rove, will launch $600,000 worth of 30-second ads attacking Shaheen beginning next week on WMUR and news stations out of Boston.
So far, $1.5 million has been spent against Shaheen, while $360,000 has been spent against Brown. This is just the beginning of what will be a long campaign of television spots, and it doesn’t even count spending by the candidates or national parties. When it comes to television advertising, one advertisement isn’t enough to sway a voter, said Dante Scala, an associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire.
“The effect usually lasts a few days. You have to sustain it to make a big effect,” Scala said.
But the number of people tuning into live television is also diminishing, which could limit the effectiveness of television ads, Scala said. With that in mind, candidates and outside groups could turn to other methods for putting out their message.
In New Hampshire, a barrage of advertising isn’t necessarily new to voters. In the 2012 election, the presidential candidates were on the air for months before the race. Shaheen’s race against Sununu in 2008 was highly competitive, and the $6 million spent between them in advertisements was a big buy for New Hampshire.
“People forget, but ’08 was a pretty busy year,” Scala said.
Even if New Hampshire voters are used to ads and attention, they may not have expected them this cycle.
Brown’s “in a position to raise money and take the fight to Jeanne Shaheen,” said Jim Merrill, a Republican strategist from Manchester and top aid to Romney in 2008 and 2012. “It’s a game-changing moment for us not only in New Hampshire, but now the Democrats are going to have to invest money in New Hampshire to save Jeanne Shaheen.”
In an event in Portsmouth last week, Brown told an audience the contest would be the No. 1 race in the country and cost “more than you’ve ever seen,” according to the Portsmouth Herald.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee says it’s ready for the fight, despite the conventional wisdom that it wasn’t planning for a race in New Hampshire. Spokesman Justin Barasky said the committee is raising more money than ever before and will have enough resources to go around.
“The DSCC will absolutely have the resources necessary to help Jeanne Shaheen and all of our other incumbents and candidates,” Barasky said.
They’d likely have to spend less if Brown wasn’t in the race. None of Brown’s Republican competitors is expected to show as much fundraising prowess.
At the end of last year, four months after getting in the race, former state senator Jim Rubens had raised $288,000. Karen Testerman, who entered the race in October, had raised $34,000. Bob Smith, who declared in December, brought in $30,000 that month.
Compare that with Brown’s $28 million haul in 2012, none of which came from his own pocket. Of that money, $4.5 million came from donations of less than $200, $2.3 million came from political action committees and $18 million came from donations of more than $200. Shaheen has already raised $5 million.
One unanswered question is whether Brown’s entry in the race will motivate conservative voters and outside groups to rally against him, drawing new, anti-Brown money into the race. Brown is pro-life and supported an assault weapons ban in Massachusetts, a record that some New Hampshire Republicans will have a difficult time embracing.
Brown could get bloodied up in the primary if “a more conservative ideological super PAC makes it its mission to go after Scott Brown on behalf of, well, either Smith or Testerman,” Scala said. “Or will super PACs basically give this one a pass and not intervene for one of Brown’s foes?”
Parties and candidates
Beyond super PACs, a Brown-Shaheen matchup is already drawing attention from the national parties and their leaders.
Warren, who beat Brown in 2012, is fundraising on Shaheen’s behalf. She sent out an email requesting $5 donations for a chance to win lunch with her and Shaheen. In an interview on New England Cable News, President Obama praised Shaheen and took a swing at Brown, suggesting he try to run for Senate in Texas instead.
“We could always use some moderate Republicans in other parts of the country. New Hampshire’s already got it covered with a great senator,” Obama said.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee will stay neutral in the Republican primary, but that doesn’t mean they can’t hit Shaheen. Her support for Obamacare has been a repeated talking point, and Republicans love to slam her for saying people who liked their health care could keep it, a statement PolitiFact deemed the 2013 “Lie of the Year.”
“When people feel that they have been misled, it’s very difficult for them to keep the same party in power,” said Brad Dayspring, communications director for the Senate Republican committee.
Democrats, meanwhile, aren’t scared of Shaheen’s record. They plan to draw a contrast between Shaheen and Brown by tying him to big oil companies and the conservative Koch brothers, who have become Democrats’ public enemy No. 1.
“We will draw the contrast between Jeanne Sheehan, who is one of the more popular incumbents in the country, with Scott Brown, who cares far more about himself then he does about New Hampshire,” said Barasky, the Senate Democratic committee’s spokesman.
Voters have eight long months to decide whose strategy they like best.
(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kronayne.)