Republican Scott Brown is using terror politics to his advantage in his battle with Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenWicker: Biden comments on Ukraine caused 'distress' for both parties Senators introduce bill aimed at protecting Ukrainian civilians Biden huddles with group of senators on Ukraine-Russia tensions MORE (D-N.H.).
Sensing an opening on foreign policy, the former Massachusetts senator delivered a scathing speech on Wednesday at a New Hampshire college accusing the incumbent Democrat of failing to stand up to President Obama or speak out while the threats facing the nation have long been clear.
"They seem only more confused on a daily basis as things unravel," he said at Saint Anselm College. "It's as if the Obama administration is maxed out, worn down, devoid of ideas, and now, guess what? All the bills are coming due. This is what foreign policy looks like without clarity and conviction."
Brown went on to declare that Shaheen supports Obama “99 percent” of the time, a common refrain from the candidate, and so “if we’ve seen some bad calls at the White House, it’s a very safe bet that our senior senator has been right in line with that failed program.”
“For Senator Shaheen, it’s been nearly six years of just going along, with no questions for the president about his decisions — at least none that anybody remembers," he said. "No expressions of disagreement ... not a single sign of independent thinking."
Brown’s campaign knocked Shaheen and Obama as “confused about the nature of the threat” posed by Islamic militants in an ad launched Tuesday.
National security has long been a central focus of the GOP hopeful’s strategy. He began hammering the senator weeks ago on the border crisis, bringing Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainBiden: A good coach knows when to change up the team These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Redistricting reform key to achieving the bipartisanship Americans claim to want MORE (R-Ariz.) to the state to drive the message home. Brown now ties the two together, often speculating that an unsecured border could offer further opportunity for such threats to enter the U.S.
Brown’s not the only candidate to take advantage of a summer punctuated by international crises that have left the president and the Democratic Party looking weak on terrorism and national security. The issue is cropping up in Republican attack ads against Democrats in House and Senate races nationwide.
But it’s a tactic, political observers say, that could be particularly potent against female voters — and key in helping Brown eat into Shaheen’s sizable lead with women.
Shaheen has held a consistent lead in the polls, though recent polling suggests the race is tightening, as voters tune in and Republicans coalesce behind Brown.
Narrowing that margin with women could make all the difference if the race comes down to the wire on Election Day, as Republicans are promising it will.
Patrick Murray, a pollster at Monmouth University, said the focus on security is reminiscent of the 2004 election, when “security moms” — female swing voters concerned with national security — backed then-President George W. Bush.
“I think what they’re really playing into is trying to swing some of those independent women who would be inclined to vote for a Democratic woman by inciting fears of terrorism hitting our shores,”
He suggested that’s why Brown is characterizing Shaheen and Obama specifically as “confused” — a relatively non-aggressive way to get at the issue.
Shaheen’s campaign declined to comment on the potential that the tactic could appeal specifically to women, but the New Hampshire Democratic Party on Wednesday dispatched a trio of foreign policy experts to push back on Brown’s speech.
His opponents are aiming to paint Brown as an unreliable messenger on foreign policy, as they’ve attempted to do throughout the campaign. The New Hampshire Democratic Party even sent two young supporters dressed up as a king and queen to Brown’s speech, a reference to his 2012 comments that he has “secret meetings with kings and queens” often, which prompted ridicule during his failed reelection campaign against now-Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenArizona Democratic Party executive board censures Sinema Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Biden stiff arms progressives on the Postal Service MORE (D-Mass.).
Doug Wilson, a former assistant secretary of Defense for public affairs under Obama, called Brown’s assertion that Shaheen is weak on foreign policy “ludicrous,” and argued it’s Brown who doesn’t understand complex international affairs.
“I think he’s confused. If he thinks paying ransom and closing borders and having a conference call with world leaders is an effective way to respond to global threats, I would call that not confusion, that’s delusion,” he said.