The very close U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire could come down to where Republican challenger Scott Brown is from. While detractors say the former Massachusetts senator crossed the state line in search of a Senate seat, an unusually large number of New Hampshire voters are originally from out of state themselves.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Is it the return of a native son or the intrusion of a carpetbagger, an outsider from another state seeking his political fortune. Those are the two takes on the Senate campaign of Republican Scott Brown in New Hampshire. Our colleague Robert Siegel went to New Hampshire to hear what voters make of those conflicting narratives.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
When he polled New Hampshire voters, political scientist, Brian Schaffner of the University of Massachusetts, asked for one word to describe former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown.
BRIAN SCHAFFNER: The word that came up far more than any other word was carpetbagger.
SIEGEL: Schaffner made a word cloud and that one word dominates the others like a banner headline stamped on a massive floating fine print. And carpetbagger is not a term of endearment. Scott Brown won a special election to the Senate in Massachusetts in 2010 and then lost the seat in 2012. Both times he advertised heavily on Boston television.
SCHAFFNER: Eighty-four percent of voters in New Hampshire are actually living in the Boston television market. And so for that group of voters, this is the third time they've seen Scott Brown run for office since 2010.
SIEGEL: So having moved to New Hampshire, where his family has ancestral roots, and more recently a summer home, did Scott Brown's change of state to challenge incumbent Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen disturb New Hampshire voters?
Well, outside the Division of Motor Vehicles in Manchester I asked some of them. First, Hugh Dennehy, an environmental consultant from New Boston, New Hampshire doesn't care. He likes Brown.
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HUGH DENNEHY: The whole argument that he's, you know, went out of state are really isn't that valid.
SIEGEL: So out of state it would be the polite word. Carpetbagger is....
DENNEHY: Carpetbagger, you can throw right - yeah, exactly.
SIEGEL: You don't buy it.
DENNEHY: No, I don't.
SIEGEL: Anne Nold of Northampton who works in sales doesn't care either and she does not like Brown.
ANNE NOLD: It doesn't matter where he comes from, I wouldn't want him.
SIEGEL: Ron Ramsey says Brown is a carpetbagger.
RON RAMSEY: I'll tell you what he is, I think he's an opportunist.
SIEGEL: Ramsey is a retired UPS driver and a Teamster.
RAMSEY: He got beat in Mass and he came to New Hampshire solely for the purpose of retaining his Senate position.
SIEGEL: But the fact that Brown declared New Hampshire his state of residence just this year doesn't faze Jim Torle of Derry.
JIM TORLE: What about when Robert Kennedy was Senator from New York? I used to go to the cape, Hyannis. They live in Hyannis. What about Hillary Clinton? You trying to tell me she's from New York? Come on.
SIEGEL: Incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen moved here decades ago from Missouri. She's a former governor and here's what she says about Scott Brown's recent arrival in the state.
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JEANNE SHAHEEN: After he lost the Senate race, he didn't come up to New Hampshire and get engaged in the life of this state. He thought about running for the Senate again in Massachusetts. And then he thought about running for governor in Massachusetts. And then he went out to Iowa and thought about running for president. And then he came up to New Hampshire and he decided he wanted to run. Well, from my perspective, New Hampshire is not a consolation prize.
SIEGEL: Scott Brown has answered the complaint this way in the debates, including a debate last night.
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SCOTT BROWN: The first three years of my life I lived on Islington Street in Portsmouth. My family's roots go back nine generations to the founding families of New Hampshire. I'm a son of the American Revolution out of Newington. But most importantly, my wife and I have been property owners and taxpayers for over 25 years.
SIEGEL: Scott Brown's handling of this issue has disappointed Andrew Cline, and editorial page editor of the Manchester Union Leader. He says Scott Brown could be talking about stories from his autobiography. Summers with his grandparents in New Hampshire provided refuge from a childhood scarred by abuse.
ANDREW CLINE: He talks about being born at the naval shipyard. He talks about the sort of long-standing family connections, but he often misses connecting with voters with that emotional connection to New Hampshire.
SIEGEL: Andrew Cline, who's a North Carolina native, says the charge that a candidate is an outsider usually doesn't succeed in this state.
CLINE: Ever since I've been in New Hampshire - 13 years - there have been candidates at the local, state levels that will run on, I was born and raised in New Hampshire. And this other guy, he's from Massachusetts or this other guy, he grew up in New York and you can't trust him. And they all lost.
SIEGEL: And not surprisingly a University of New Hampshire study found that while nationwide two-thirds of native-born Americans live in the state where they were born, in New Hampshire fewer than half the residents were born here. Southern New Hampshire, with Massachusetts jobs nearby, but without Massachusetts taxes, is a magnet for people from other states, especially Massachusetts. Last night in his final debate with Jeanne Shaheen, Scott Brown got the kind of question from a reporter that the former governor could hit out of the ballpark, but that he seemed to flail at. What's being done for the economy of Sullivan County? It's one of the least populous of the states' ten counties.
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BROWN: If you go to any business in any county in our state, those are the very real challenges.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sullivan County is west of Concord. It's not north of Concord, Senator Brown. So what do you see going well and what's not going well there.
BROWN: With respect, I've answered the question. The challenge is the same in every county in our state.
SIEGEL: Shaheen cited her economic development plans for the city of Claremont, the biggest in the county. The reporter, by the way, later apologized for his interjection, acknowledging that some of Sullivan County is both west and north of Concord. This morning, when both campaigns hit the road, they both announced their destination for the day, Sullivan County. In Manchester, New Hampshire, this is Robert Siegel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.