PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) — Announcing his campaign to return to Washington by way of New Hampshire, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown tweaked the state's "Live Free or Die" motto Thursday to bash both President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen's support for it.
"It forces us to make a choice: Live free or log on," Brown told supporters gathered in a hotel ballroom. "Guess what? In New Hampshire, we choose freedom."
Brown, whose formal campaign announcement comes four months after he moved to New Hampshire, faces several other Republican primary opponents hoping to defeat Shaheen in November. And while recent polls give Shaheen the lead, Brown's strong name recognition and national fundraising network makes him a serious contender, and his candidacy helps the GOP's push to claim the Senate majority.
"As bad as Jeanne Shaheen's record is, we're actually here for an even more important reason," former Gov. John H. Sununu said in introducing Brown. "We're here because we can count to 51. ... Fifty-one Republican senators, that's what it's all about in 2014."
Both Sununu and Brown cast Shaheen as a rubber stamp for the president's agenda, and Brown promised he would be an independent voice who would "get America off the road of big government."
He zeroed in on Shaheen's support for the health care overhaul law, though he did not repeat a claim he made earlier this week about a survey showing "insurance premiums are going up 90 percent in New Hampshire because of Obamacare." Similar language was included in an earlier draft of his speech, as well, but Brown didn't mention it Thursday, after news reports pointed out only a single New Hampshire broker was surveyed.
Brown instead argued that Shaheen was the "deciding vote" to pass the health overhaul law — a label Republicans can apply to any Democrat because the bill passed with the exact number of votes necessary to avoid a GOP filibuster. And he warned that the worst is yet to come, particularly for business owners.
"There's another wave coming, and it's going to be a big wave folks," he said. "Let me be the one to stop it for you."
Brown, who won a special election in Massachusetts in 2010 before losing his seat to Democrat Elizabeth Warren two years later, made his New Hampshire announcement in Portsmouth, where he lived as a baby and where he frequently visited his grandparents while growing up.
"Our campaign for the U.S. Senate begins not far from where my life began," he said.
In response to Democrats who have called him a carpetbagger, Brown has pointed out that Shaheen was born in Missouri. But Shaheen has lived in New Hampshire for more than 40 years, and served in the state Senate and three terms as governor before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008.
A WMUR Granite State Poll released Thursday showed Shaheen slightly ahead of Brown among all likely voters. Brown led among residents who have moved from Massachusetts, Shaheen led among those who moved from other states, and they were about even among lifelong New Hampshire residents.
Brown faces three GOP primary challengers: former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith, former state Sen. Jim Rubens and conservative activist Karen Testerman.
"If Scott Brown gets through the Republican primary, this election will be a choice between someone who cares only about himself and the big corporate interests that fund his campaign and someone who works every day to make a difference for New Hampshire families. New Hampshire voters know Jeanne Shaheen shares their values," Shaheen campaign manager Mike Vlacich said.