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Kathy Sullivan: Scott Brown’s prospects for a U.S. Senate win are poor

March 10. 2014 4:22PM

The idea of Scott Brown running for the U.S. Senate from New Hampshire never made sense, and it has not improved with age. Brown’s very public vacillation about the race has set a new standard for indecisiveness. He has been unable to articulate a reason for running. Recently, Brown said that negative ads that have been run against him may prompt him to get into the race. A candidacy based on pique is better suited for student council president than federal office.

Now, Brown’s poll numbers are falling so quickly that one wonders why Republicans were ever in such a tizzy about his possible candidacy. A January UNH Survey Center poll had Sen. Jeanne Shaheen beating Brown by 10 points, while Brown was viewed favorably by only 38 percent. Suffolk University released a poll last week that had Shaheen defeating the former Massachusetts senator 52 percent to 39 percent. Only 38 percent of those polled viewed Brown favorably, compared to 52 percent for Shaheen. Shaheen’s numbers have strengthened despite hundreds of thousands of dollars in anti-Shaheen ads run in recent months. Instead of softening up the Granite State’s senior senator, the ads have boomeranged. Her supporters have responded by donating to a significant war chest for the campaign.

Brown’s not-quite-a-campaign has other problems. A Boston Herald story quoted unnamed Republican sources saying that Brown was “likely to snub” Mitt Romney’s campaign team in building a New Hampshire campaign structure. One anonymous “top GOP” state official asked why Brown would use a campaign team that had lost by seven points. All these local consultants salivating over a potential Brown campaign cash cow shouldn’t be so quick to criticize their colleagues: after all, there has been only one successful statewide Republican campaign in the last 10 years. Besides, this inside baseball sniping has put Brown in the position of having to smooth the ruffled feathers of local Romnney-ites before he has even decided to run.

Then there was the story that Brown was reaching out to former GOP chairman Jack Kimball. Pundits believe Brown can appeal to voters by running as the sort of moderate/conservative Republican who used to be elected here. Genuflecting to Jack Kimball, the most Tea Party of Tea Partiers, ruins that hoped-for image. Kimball’s latest venture, for example, is promoting “Operation American Spring,” a plan to bring 10 million people to Washington, D.C., to demand that the elected leadership of the United States, both Democrats and Republicans, resign en masse. Kimball calls it an aggressive effort; I call it an attempted coup to oust our duly elected President and Congress. Brown’s appeal for Kimball’s support is both a little embarrassing and a little desperate.

But here is the really bad news for Brown: his poll numbers are falling before the Shaheen campaign has brought out its heavy artillery: Scott Brown’s own record. He especially is vulnerable in his support for large energy companies. While in the Senate, he voted against a motion to allow a vote on a bill to close about $21 billion in tax loopholes for oil companies. In 2012, he voted to stop another bill from reaching the Senate floor that would have closed $24 billion in energy company tax loopholes. We can expect to hear a lot about Brown’s financial support from the oil and gas industries, which have donated more than $450,000 to his campaigns. This record was a major factor in Brown’s 2012 loss in Massachusetts.

Brown’s positions on women’s issues also are a problem for him in New Hampshire, a state where the votes of moderate female voters can win — or lose — elections. He co-sponsored the Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed employers to decide what medical care a company’s health insurance plan would provide. Not only could an employer have denied contraceptive coverage, a company could have denied HIV screenings and other services on religious grounds. He also voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have required employers to prove that discrepancies between pay to male and female employees were job-based, not gender-based. Positions such as these would drag him down among women voters, especially in a race against Jeanne Shaheen, who is popular with women voters.

All Brown has going for him right now is the prospect of significant help from the energy interests and Wall Street donors who have supported him previously. However, those supporters can easily shift course and send their money to more fertile ground in other states unless he can reverse his declining poll numbers. With the filing period just three months away, Brown has little time to prove that he has a political future in his newly adopted state.

Kathy Sullivan is a Manchester attorney and a member of the Democratic National Committee. She was chairman of the state Democratic Party from 1999-2007.

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