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Oct 4, 2014 4:06 AM

NH's Senate race centers on souring on Obama

The Associated Press

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) The last thing Nancy Vawter expected when she went online with her 22-month-old granddaughter to watch the musician Raffi sing "Wheels on the Bus" was an ad for Scott Brown, the Republican challenging Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire.

"Politics has no business being anywhere around children," the Portsmouth resident said later, recalling her reaction.

But parents vote, and grandparents, too. And as a result, the ad wars have invaded even the feel-silly online world of children entertainers in one of several close races that will determine whether Republicans win a Senate majority.

If the New Hampshire race is like others in some respects, it is unique in at least one.

Brown, 55, moved to the state to run. The race is his third for the Senate in five years, following a pair of contests next door in Massachusetts in 2010 and 2012 in which he first won, then lost, the seat once held by the late Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Shaheen, 67, is a known political commodity in New Hampshire, elected to the Legislature, then three terms as governor as well as one in the Senate. She also lost a race for the Senate in the strong Republican year of 2002 to John Sununu, then defeated him in 2008 when President Barack Obama won the state.

"She's won in a wave and lost in a wave," says former Rep. Frank Guinta, a Republican running for his former seat. "I think she's as susceptible as anyone is."

That view that even a well-established politician can lose if enough voters sour on Obama after six years explains Brown's presence in the race, the close polls and the torrent of television commercials by both political parties and their allies.

Very few are testimonials to Brown, like the one the U.S. Chamber of Commerce posted featuring former presidential nominee Mitt Romney as an introduction to the Raffi video.

Others are scathing, including some aired by Ending Spending, a conservative organization that has spent about $2 million attacking Shaheen on television since late August.

The League of Conservation Voters, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Senate Majority PAC, which is run by allies of Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., have come to her aid, often with ads attacking Brown.

Like challengers in other races, Brown runs hard against the current occupant of the White House, who is plagued with low approval ratings. Shaheen votes "99 percent of the time with President Obama," he says frequently. "Do you know how much she actually votes for you? Zero," he told one audience.

Shaheen's rebuttal is simple.

"No matter where Scott Brown lives, he's going to put Scott Brown first. Not you. Not your family. Not New Hampshire," she told supporters last month after winning nomination to a second term.

Campaigning last week in Nashua at a company that makes prototype metal products, Brown stressed the importance of renewing the state's economy, easing federal regulations and reducing energy costs. He favors repealing the nation's health care law, even before any replacement is ready.

He also can equivocate.

Two weeks ago, his office did not respond when asked if he would have voted for legislation that cleared Congress with Shaheen's support to arm and fund Syrian rebels fighting Islamic State militants.

Asked as he campaigned about sending U.S. combat troops to the region to fight, he ducked again. "It's really up to the generals on the ground," he said, although the United States has none in Syria. Having left open the possibility of deploying combat troops, he said, "I'm not advocating that."

One employee of the metal company, Becky Landry, 49, generally votes Republican. "He's got my vote. I just believe in what he says," she said, voicing a concern felt by many in an age of dissatisfaction with political figures.

Shaheen won't get Landry's vote.

But she hopes her ticket back to the Senate will be punched by other women in a state that has no men in its four-member congressional delegation.

Campaigning recently at a pair of small businesses, one a bookstore and the other an establishment where chairs are re-caned, she stressed the need to make more credit available for companies owned by women.

At both, she criticized Brown for voting for legislation to let employers deny workers health benefits on religious grounds. She also mocked him over reports that he had recently hidden in a restaurant restroom rather than face questions about a Supreme Court ruling on a similar issue.

At New England Porch Rockers in Laconia, two women credited Shaheen with helping their businesses solve problems, and expressed their support. One, Dianna Guida Hosmer, said she is a Republican but that Brown is "not my kind of Republican. He voted for every crazy and extreme Republican amendment put before him."


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