Republican Scott Brown easily won his party’s nomination to take on Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenBipartisan group of senators: The election is over Seven Senate races to watch in 2022 How Congress dismissed women's empowerment MORE (D-N.H.) this fall, setting up a fierce and costly fight for a seat Democrats would have preferred to ignore this cycle.

Brown took 49 percent support to 23 percent each for former state Sen. Jim Rubens and former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith, when the Associated Press called the race, with 21 percent of precincts reporting.

Brown had faced skepticism among Republicans in the state, with conservatives expressing frustration over his more moderate positions on gun control, among others. He was also the target of about $1.6 million in attack ads from a pro-Rubens super PAC aimed at hammering him as beholden to special interests, and Democratic groups have hit him with more than $1 million overall — starting even prior to his entry into the race.

ADVERTISEMENT

Aware of the potential that a slim win margin would be read by his opponents as weakness, Brown’s campaign set expectations low in a recent pre-primary memo, predicting he’d draw less than 40 percent of the vote. His strong margin of victory is likely to assuage some of those concerns, but Democrats saw some weakness in the fact that more than half the electorate was looking for an alternative when the race was called.

Shaheen has maintained a solid single-digit lead in most polls of the race, but Republicans say it will tighten now that the primary’s over and Republican voters coalesce behind their candidate. 

They see the incumbent as particularly vulnerable on ObamaCare and because of her votes in support of President Obama’s agenda, who remains unpopular in New Hampshire, as he is nationwide. Brown has also taken to hammering her on foreign policy and immigration reform, as the border crisis and the rise of ISIS has drawn increasing attention.

“After six years of missed opportunities at home and growing dangers around the world, we need change,” Brown said in his victory speech Tuesday night. “And the problem is, a vote for my opponent will change exactly nothing.”

And Brown’s fundraising abilities — he raised nearly $3.7 million since entering the race in April — and campaigning abilities, as well as the millions expected to pour into the Granite State from outside groups backing both candidates, ensure the New Hampshire Senate race will be a battle to the finish line this fall.

ADVERTISEMENT

Even before Brown was named the winner of the primary, Shaheen was on offense, accusing him of protecting the oil industry and Wall Street while voters suffered. And she hammered him hard for moving to New Hampshire from Massachusetts in her speech to supporters Tuesday night, repeatedly referending his move.

“I didn’t just move here. I’ve been here, working to make a difference for New Hampshire,” she said. “No matter where Scott Brown lives, he’s going to put Scott Brown first, not you."

She added: "New Hampshire is not a consolation prize.”

—This piece was updated at 11:30 p.m.