Over the past several weeks this blog has taken the opportunity time, and time, and time to highlight the amazing crop of candidates the GOP is fielding this cycle. Typically, we’ve used the limited column space to highlight candidates that are locked in tight races or are proving to be competitive in surprising places.
One name we’ve neglected to mention thus far is Scott Brown, who, despite a strong background and innovative platform, appeared to be one a long shot to challenge Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire. Prior to August, Shaheen led by double digits in the majority of polling and various election predictors said she was all but a shoe-in. The Washington Post gave her a 99 percent chance of winning, the New York Times’ gave her a 91 percent chance of retaining her seat, and 538’s Nate Silver gave Shaheen a 90 percent chance of beating Brown.
In spite of the poor polling sources continued to reiterate that Brown still had a chance.
“The latest WMUR Granite State Poll showing [Brown] losing to Shaheen 50 percent to 38 percent is further away than he was in the spring,” James Pindell writes for the local ABC affiliate. “But the reality is that this race, like Shaheen’s other races for Senate in 2002 and 2008, will break one way or the other much later in the fall, possibly even in the last two weeks.”
Pindell is right. At this point in 2008, Jeanne Shaheen was ahead of Republican John Sununu by an average of 11 points, but only won by 6 points in a state that Obama captured by 10 points.
This history coupled with favorable national data this year led the NRSC to say earlier this week: “If the environment continues to trend against Obama and Democrats, Shaheen is in serious trouble.”
That prompted guffaws from Democrats who arrogantly assumed that Shaheen already had the election in the bag.
And then came a bombshell of a poll, one whose results could not only shake up the New Hampshire race, but the entire national political landscape as well. RealClearPolitics’ Scott Conroy reported:
Scott Brown is back in the ballgame.
The former Massachusetts senator had appeared to be fading in his bid to defeat incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, but a new poll shows that the race is now up for grabs.
In the WMUR/UNH survey released Thursday night, Shaheen led Brown by 46 percent to 44 percent, which is within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
This latest numbers show a dramatic swing in Brown’s direction from the previous WMUR/UNH poll, which was conducted a month-and-a-half earlier and showed Shaheen leading Brown by 12 points.
By and large that is a reflection of the strong campaign that Scott Brown is running. As the Foster’s Daily Democrat editorial board wrote, “During our hour-long editorial board meeting with Brown, there was nary an issue on which this former U.S. senator was not up to speed. From immigration and the deficit to any one of a number of foreign policy concerns – Israel, Iran, Iraq, etc. – Brown had done his homework.”
But it’s also reflective of the perilous position facing every Democratic candidate this cycle. POLITICO’s Mike Allen explained how favorable polling in this race could signal a coming wave election.
“This is a huge psychological turning point for Republicans, not just in New Hampshire, but elsewhere who are wondering can we really take the Senate,” Allen told MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “I’m told that this poll is going to help bring other big donors off the sidelines because they are saying, ‘wow, a Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might be a real thing if Scott Brown wins.’ They are very far on the way to that.”
No matter what you take away from the poll one thing is clear: you can no longer ignore this once-forgotten race. We sure won’t be.