America is “at a dangerous moment for our country and our friends,” said Scott Brown, the Republican candidate for Senate in New Hampshire, on Wednesday afternoon. In a speech at St. Anselm College near Manchester, Brown described the chaos that’s broken out across the world over the last year or so. Unrest in Ukraine with an aggressive and assertive Russia. Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons threatening America’s ally of Israel. The explosive growth of ISIS and the reemergence of Islamic terrorism in the Middle East that has killed thousands in Iraq and Syria, including America citizens. “It’s starting to feel like the world is on fire, with so many crises getting worse, so many adversaries gaining ground,” Brown said.
His address criticized Obama’s “maxed out” and “worn down” foreign policy. “This is what foreign policy looks like without clarity and conviction. This is what the world looks like without American leadership,” Brown said of the tumultuous state of global affairs.
“It’s hardly surprising that national security has become a central issue in the election of 2014,” Brown added.
What Brown might have said is that national security has become a central issue of his campaign against Democratic senator Jeanne Shaheen. Over the past few months, Brown has focused on two major, related issues—national security (specifically, Islamic terrorism), and illegal immigration. National security is theme of his latest ad. All the while, Brown's been quietly moving up in the polls in a race that previously appeared out of reach for Republicans.
Shaheen, a former governor first elected to the Senate in 2008, leads Brown by 5 points in the average of polls. There’s plenty more for Brown to do if he hopes to win, but the gap has closed considerably since the summer, when Shaheen was regularly polling double digits ahead of the Republican. One recent poll from CNN showed the candidates tied, and five of the last six polls have Shaheen leading by six points or less. In only two of those polls does she earn the support of a majority those surveyed.
What’s changed for Brown? The polls aren’t clear, the former Massachusetts senator has capitalized on recent events that may be giving him a boost. In July, as unaccompanied minors began flooding across the southern border, Brown began to criticize the “pro-amnesty policies” of Barack Obama and Shaheen. He was one of the first candidates for Congress to mention the border crisis in a campaign ad. In another ad, he specifically mentioned Shaheen’s support for the Gang of 8 immigration reform bill that passed the Senate last year as a cause for “lawlessness on the border.” The lack of immigration enforcement became a signature part of Brown’s stump speech.
“I believe it’s one of the greatest threats affecting our country,” he told radio host Laura Ingraham on Wednesday.
Over the next month, Brown’s numbers against Shaheen improved. A June poll of likely voters by local news station WMUR, for example, had Brown down 12 points. In August, the WMUR poll had him just 2 points down.
With the Middle East aflame again, Brown is banking on foreign policy to put him over the line. Brown staffers tried to gin up plenty of interest in Wednesday's "major" speech, sending excerpts to the media beforehand. The hype was enough that even Shaheen felt the need to preempt Brown’s criticisms. “I’m happy to put my foreign policy credentials up against Scott Brown's any day,” she told National Journal in a story published Wednesday morning.