Scott Brown, the Republican Senate candidate in New Hampshire who has struggled to gain traction against his opponent Jeanne Shaheen, is within two points of the incumbent Democrat in a new poll from WMUR and the University of New Hampshire. The poll shows Shaheen with 46 percent support and Brown, the former GOP senator from Massachusetts, with 44 percent. The previous WMUR-UNH poll, from June, showed Shaheen with a 12-point lead over Brown, 52 percent to 40 percent.
This is the closest poll of the race since January, with most giving Shaheen a comfortable lead. Even with the latest WMUR poll, the Democrat still has a 6.6-point average lead. The only other poll in recent months to show Brown within single digits was an NBC News poll giving Shaheen an 8-point advantage.
If the race is indeed tightening as the latest poll suggests, what could explain Shaheen's drop? Brown, despite having national name recognition and having represented New Hampshire's next-door neighbor in the Senate, may have been hurt early on by charges of carpetbaggery. While Brown did own a home in New Hampshire for years, Shaheen is something of a Granite State political institution, having served three two-year terms as its governor. Brown has spent the summer quietly meeting with voters across the state to establish his New Hampshire bona fides, and he's all but locked up the Republican nomination.
But Brown has also focused heavily on the issue of illegal immigration in television advertisements over the past few weeks, first highlighting security differences between the airport and the southern border, then hitting Shaheen more directly over her position on the Gang of 8 immigration bill, supported by President Obama. Shaheen, along with every other Democratic senator, voted for the Gang of 8 bill.
"Want to know why there's lawlessness on our border? Ask Senator Shaheen," said Brown in a 15-second TV ad that shows Shaheen and Obama standing together. "She voted against border security twice and for amnesty."
Brown's ads tying Shaheen to Obama's immigration policy may have been good politics. A recent national poll found Americans give Obama lower marks on immigration than his job generally, and 39 percent say they consider immigration one of their top three issues.