, Newburyport, MA


April 3, 2014

Getting down to brass tacks in Shaheen-Brown Senate race

The expected match between New Hampshire Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Scott Brown for a seat in the U.S. Senate is one of the marquee races of the 2014 midterm elections.

The outcome may determine whether Harry Reid and the Democrats retain the Senate or the Republicans seize control and challenge President Obama in his last two years in office.

There are plenty of issues to debate — the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), the United States’ standing in the world in the face of challenges from enemies like Russia, Iran and Syria, energy policy and global warming, scandals of the Obama administration — Benghazi, NSA spying, the use of the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies to stifle dissent.

The debate should be a grand political spectacle and one that helps clarify those issues.

Instead, what we have to date is a combination of farce and melodrama.

First the farce.

Brown’s signature moment so far was his comment to an Associated Press reporter:

“Do I have the best credentials? Probably not. ’Cause, you know, whatever,” Brown said, sounding every bit the barn-jacketed phony his critics portray him as.

Late-night comedian Jimmy Fallon mercilessly mocked Brown’s “Wassup, dude?” moment, and Brown deserved it.

The gaffe reinforced doubts about the commitment of the former U.S. senator from Massachusetts to the race and to New Hampshire.

It doesn’t help that Brown’s response to the Shaheen camp’s relentless branding of him as a carpetbagger is, in effect, “I know you are, but what am I?” Shaheen may not be “from here,” as Brown says, but she’s called the Granite State home for more than four decades, not three months.

Now for the melodrama.

In some ways, Brown’s challenge is the best thing that could have happened to Shaheen.

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