CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Former Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Scott Brown won New Hampshire's Republican U.S. Senate primary on Tuesday, moving forward in his attempt to get back to Washington from another state.
Brown faced nine primary opponents, though only two mounted serious campaigns. The front-runner from the start, he spent months tailoring his message toward a November showdown with incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, and he spent Tuesday reminding voters that Republicans need to gain six seats to win a majority in the Senate during the last two years of President Barack Obama's term.
"After six years of missed opportunities at home and growing dangers around the world, we need change," Brown said in his victory speech. "And the problem is a vote for my opponent will change exactly nothing."
This is Brown's third U.S. Senate campaign in five years. One of the original tea party favorites, he shocked the nation by winning a 2010 special election to replace the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Democrat. That win in a Democratic stronghold going back decades vaulted Brown to the top of the GOP's list of rising stars, but he was soundly defeated by Democrat Elizabeth Warren in 2012. Last year, he moved to New Hampshire, where he had a vacation home and had lived as a toddler, seeking an alternate route to Washington.
If he's successful, Brown would become only the third U.S. senator to serve multiple states. Waitman Willey served Virginia and then West Virginia when it became a state during the Civil War, and James Shields represented Illinois and Minnesota before being elected from Missouri in 1879.
Shaheen wasted no time contrasting Brown's recent arrival in the state to her decades of public service as a state senator, the first woman elected governor of New Hampshire and the state's first female U.S. senator.
Before polls closed Tuesday, she began running one television ad criticizing Brown and one featuring New Hampshire residents and communities she's helped.
"I didn't just move here. I've been here, working to make a difference for New Hampshire," she planned to tell supporters Tuesday night. "No matter where Scott Brown lives, he's going to put Scott Brown first. Not you. Not your family. Not New Hampshire."
Shaheen's biggest advantage is that almost every voter likely has not only met her but interacted with her, said Neil Levesque, director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.
"She's made it about her relationship with individual constituents here in New Hampshire," he said. "So far, she's been successful at saying, 'Remember me? I'm that person you reached out to, and I reached back, and together we solved problems.'"
Brown's two main primary challengers, former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith and former state Sen. Jim Rubens, cast him as a liberal flip-flopper, arguing that he's shown more consistency voting with Democrats than he has sticking to his convictions. Brown answered by calling himself an independent problem-solver willing to work across the political aisle and by reminding voters that, unlike his rivals, he never left the Republican Party. But he mostly focused on Shaheen, attempting to tie her to the increasingly unpopular Obama, particularly in her support for Obama's health care overhaul law.
"Just because she's been throwing her vote away in the Senate does not mean you have to throw your vote away in November," Brown said. "If we're ever going to hold this president accountable, we have to hold this senator accountable."
That strategy could work if New Hampshire continues its recent trend of favoring Democrats in presidential election years and Republicans in the midterms. Levesque said Brown's challenge is to keep the focus on Obama, though he said Brown also has shown himself to be a tenacious grass-roots campaigner.
Both will benefit from national interest in the race, Levesque said. While races in several other states are considered more competitive, outside groups already have poured $6.6 million into New Hampshire, bringing the total spent on the race to nearly $16 million.