U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown speaks with Joseph W. McQuaid, New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News publisher and president, during an interview Wednesday. DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER
MANCHESTER - When Republican U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown campaigned in the state's North Country last week, he stopped and knocked on the doors of every Pittsburg house that he saw showing one of his lawn signs.
7/9/14-U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown smiles during an interview at the New Hampshire Union Leader in Manchester on Wednesday. DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER
"They said 'What are you doing here?'?" Brown recalled in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News, noting how much he enjoys the state's famed retail politics, although he admits he was skeptical until he began this campaign.
"You go into people's homes and they expect it. You go into people's businesses and they expect it," Brown said. "It's one-on-one, door-to-door, business-to-business, parades, fairs and baseball games."
Swaying voters one-on-one is different from the media buys and debate performances that shape most voters' opinions in a Massachusetts U.S. Senate race.
Brown's surprise victory over Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley to finish the term of Democratic stalwart Ted Kennedy thrust him into the national spotlight, making him a rising Republican star.
But Brown lost his reelection bid to Elizabeth Warren in 2012, moved his family to New Hampshire last year and - after urging from state and national Republican leaders - announced he would seek his party's nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen.
Democrats called him a carpetbagger, while some conservatives questioned his allegiance to the party's platform.
"I am actually the only one in this primary who is a lifelong Republican," Brown said, alluding to former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith and former state Sen. Jim Rubens, who both left the party at some point in their political careers.
Largely ignoring his primary opponents, Brown has focused on Shaheen, calling her a rubber stamp for President Obama by voting with him 99 percent of the time, saying she was the Senate's deciding vote for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and recently charging her with supporting a hike in the federal gas tax.
But while Brown concentrates on the incumbent, his GOP rivals have him in their sights.
Recently, a pro-Rubens political action committee took Brown to task for voting with Obama 78 percent of the time in 2012.
Brown doubts that figure. He says his voting record is probably 50/50 siding with Republicans half the time and Democrats the other half. "I'm an independent voter and thinker," Brown said. "I always have been."
He notes his willingness to work across the aisle helped pass key legislation, including prohibiting senators and congressmen from using inside information to trade stocks.
"Remember, Democrats are in charge down there right now. If you want to send me down there to do nothing, I'm not your guy," Brown said. "I am not a divider, I never have been."
He hopes that is true should he win the Sept. 9 primary, saying a united Republican Party is Shaheen's worst nightmare.
Until Republican voters make their decision, Brown echoes familiar GOP themes such as repealing Obamacare. The law's tentacles reach into everybody's life, he said, driving up the cost of premiums, increasing co-pays and denying many people their old insurance polices.
Brown blames the act - and the resulting uncertainty for businesses - for much of the economic malaise that has curtailed business expansion and job growth.
He defends his vote in the Massachusetts Senate for former Gov. Mitt Romney's mandatory health insurance law, saying it helped fix a broken system. "To say I don't want people covered is a lie," Brown said, noting health care reform should be turned over to the states.
He is critical of a bill Shaheen introduced to lower interest rates on student loans, saying it will raise taxes on individuals making more than $1 million. He suggests that multi-billion dollar college endowments be taxed to lower the interest rates for students.
Brown says the real problem is higher education's costs, which have grown 10 percent more than inflation, and he proposes cutting off federal funding to colleges whose costs exceed inflation.
Another Brown concern is immigration. "We have to secure our borders," he says.
He believes the young people under 18 years old flooding the country need to be deported and not moved to the front of the line.
"We need to follow the law," Brown said. "To put people ahead of those who are legally following the process is morally wrong."
Brown was critical of Obama's foreign policy and the Senate Armed Services Committee, on which Shaheen sits, for not acting as a check and balance on the executive branch.
Radical Islamists essentially have their own country in Iraq, contrary to America's long-held objective, Brown said. The United States should have retained a rehabilitative force, a quick-reaction force and a training force in Iraq, said the recently retired National Guard colonel.
"It's not a surprise this situation occurred," Brown said. "(Obama) wanted to get out. He wanted to get out and say 'We are done.'"
Brown is impressed with the new breed of young Republicans in the Senate or running for Senate seats who want to focus on moving the country forward.
"That's why I'm so excited by this opportunity," Brown said. "They are good, hard-charging people."