MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — New England Republicans are poised to win elections in bright blue states and give the Democrats a run for their money in areas they’ve dominated for years.
And many Republicans say their momentum is largely thanks to President Barack Obama’s planned executive amnesty.
Polling data shows that governor’s races in Massachusetts and Rhode Island–two solidly blue states–are winnable for GOP candidates. Maine’s incumbent conservative GOP governor is locked in a dead heat for his position, holding fast after many in the political class thought it would be a cakewalk to make him a one-term proposition. A slew of House races from both of New Hampshire’s seats to one of Maine’s to even a Massachusetts seat are within reach for Republicans, too.
And former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican who seems to be the informal top of the ticket for the GOP in the region, is neck-and-neck with incumbent New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen a month out from November’s midterm election contest.
“That’s one factor,” Brown said when asked about whether the president’s unpopularity is contributing to Republicans’ chances across the region during an interview right after Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) endorsed him at the University of New Hampshire a couple weeks ago.
“But when [Shaheen is] voting for the president over 99 percent of the time, and you see people’s fuel costs are going up, your healthcare costs are going up, and you’re less secure when you travel around the country,” Brown said. “The border is porous. Energy prices are going to go up potentially 22 cents a gallon with her policies. People go, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. We need to find a way to fix this. The best way to do it is to get rid of Harry Reid and Sen. Shaheen.'”
Perhaps no candidate nationwide more than Brown will symbolize whether the November elections match the GOP wave that swept him into power in 2010 in a Massachusetts special election. As he has gained momentum in the polls, Brown has focused his fire on Shaheen’s support for the president’s planned executive amnesty, on Obama’s failure to secure the U.S. border with Mexico and for their initial dismissal of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
While other Republican candidates around the country such as Thom Tillis, North Carolina’s House Speaker who’s spent the past couple weeks stumping with pro-amnesty Republicans like Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, or Virginia’s Ed Gillespie–who called the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” bill “good policy” and “good politics”–haven’t honed in on these threats as aggressively as some thought they might, Brown has made them the central plank of his campaign.
Recent polls from the three different races show Brown still in the game, tied or trailing Shaheen by a few points in each poll–but Gillespie is widely expected to lose by more than 10 points and Tillis is struggling to gain traction. While many observers expected Gillespie to lose, the weaknesses from Tillis’ campaign are causing widespread grumbling about his campaign and inner drive.
Other Republicans nationwide have benefitted whenever they have seized on immigration. Terri Lynn Land, who’s running for U.S. Senate in bluish-purple Michigan, is polling tightly with Democrat Rep. Gary Peters after she’s hammered him on immigration. Alaska Republican Dan Sullivan, who’s challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich there, saw a bump in the polls last week after the state’s GOP hammered Begich for being the “deciding vote” for Obama’s planned executive amnesty after Senate Budget Committee ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) led a floor fight on a procedural vote on the continuing resolution where Begich voted with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Brown’s momentum and a number of other pro-GOP data points come just after the news cycle went through a phase of discussing why Republican candidates weren’t doing as well as they could be.
“As I like to say when I give speeches, if I went into a coma and woke up in mid-November, and you told me that the GOP had only picked up two or three seats, I’d be quite surprised, but not completely shocked,” Sean Trende wrote for RealClearPolitics late last week. “I would have a pretty good idea what had happened. Likewise, if you told me the GOP had picked up 11 seats, I would be quite surprised, but not completely shocked. There remains a wide range of possibilities, and many of these races are very close.”
Trende’s piece is focused around the question of whether or not 2014 is going to actually be a “wave” year, and if it is, whether the Republicans would be the beneficiary of that. Part of the reason why Republicans aren’t coasting into November this year like they did in 2010, Bob Patterson, a George W. Bush administration speechwriter, wrote in the Washington Times is because they’re not embracing a fight against illegal immigration–the top issue in 2014–as a party, like the GOP fought against Obamacare in 2010.
“The GOP needs to strike fast to keep the heat on the Democrats,” Patterson wrote. “Specifically, the party’s House and Senate leadership should call all their incumbent members, along with all other GOP candidates, to Washington next week to sign a one-page Security First Pledge on the Capitol Steps. All Republicans would promise to counter the president’s open-borders craziness with legislation that would elevate the imperative of national security, step up border enforcement, and fully reverse the flood of illegals into America. With the Islamic State eager to fly its ominous flag over the White House — and as hordes of Central American migrants burden public-school districts and escalate public health and safety risks — such defensive measures would resonate with anxious voters of both parties. The measure might also impose an emergency moratorium on all guest-worker permits while showing the door to all noncitizens whose visas and green cards have expired.”
Patterson argues that part of the unwillingness to touch the issue is because of the political correctness that’s engulfed the immigration debate over the past couple years. But, as he points to how Speaker John Boehner argued just last week that amnesty would benefit the economy, he says it’s also due to how the GOP “consultant and donor class” doesn’t want to win if they have to take a hardline on immigration. Some Republicans, Patterson argues, either want to play for both the donors’ team and for the team of blue collar workers–or if they have to pick a side, they line up with the money over the votes.
“Yet they don’t have a choice” if they want to win at all, Patterson wrote.
Here in New Hampshire, Brown isn’t leaving anything to chance–he’s scorching the earth around the immigration fight in a way that’s almost dragged some other Republicans nationwide along with him. Perhaps most interestingly, however, is that other candidates around the New England region are following Brown’s lead, and riding the wake of excitement he’s creating in political waters. Charlie Baker, a Republican running for governor of Massachusetts–who’s aggressively questioned the effects of illegal immigration on the state’s resources, saying he opposes driver’s licenses, public housing and in-state tuition for illegal aliens–is actually polling ahead of Democrat Martha Coakley in the latest poll from the Boston Globe.
The Bay State’s sixth congressional district, currently represented by Democratic Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) who lost his primary to liberal activist Seth Moulton, is up for grabs as Republican Richard Tisei–an openly gay man–runs a hard-fought campaign. While polling earlier this year showed Tisei beating the incumbent Democrat Tierney, recent polling shows Tisei trailing Moulton for now. But it’s the issue of immigration that is a “closely watched” one, something that if Tisei uses it right, WBZ political analyst Jon Keller said could make the difference there.
Keller said that’s because the city of Lynn, Massachusetts, which is squarely in the district Tisei and Moulton are fighting over, is facing an immigration crisis of its own. Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, a Republican, recently visited Washington, D.C., to attend a press conference with the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) highlighting the costs of illegal immigration to cities like hers.
“It’s gotten to the point where the school system is overwhelmed, our Health Department is overwhelmed, the city’s budget is being sustainably altered in order to accommodate in the school department,” Kennedy said at the press conference.
That, Keller said, is why immigration is a major factor in this Massachusetts congressional race.
“A lot of people in Lynn were upset about the talk of sending many of those child refugees north of the border to come in and stay in Lynn,” Keller said according to the local media outlet. “Issues like that are going to matter. Tisei has a leg up, I think, in terms of his knowledge and profile in those and they’re going to try to move quickly to define Moulton as not a blank slate anymore, but an unappealing slate.”
Kennedy, Lynn’s mayor, told Breitbart News in a brief interview after the press conference at the National Press Club that yes, Republicans anywhere–including in Massachusetts and throughout New England–can win against Democrats if they run on immigration.
“It’s certainly a prominent issue, and it’s foremost on people’s minds,” Kennedy said. “I think that going about it in a sensible way and not in a reactionary way is very important for any kind of Republican success because we do have a lot of independents, particularly in Massachusetts, and a lot of the Democrats that I know are very conservative Democrats and they’re not really happy with how the Democratic Party platform has moved so far to the left. They would like it to become a little more centrist. So I think if we take a common sense approach to it, and not one of those hardline approaches–not ‘deport everybody,’ because I know from my position as mayor that’s a practical impossibility–I think people want to hear common sense, pragmatic solutions to the problem.”
In Rhode Island, Cranston’s GOP mayor Allan Fung is running slightly less aggressively than Baker or Brown on the issue of immigration, but has stated during a debate and in other forums that he does not support driver’s licenses for illegal aliens. He has also made clear that he opposes the efforts of the administration to use Rhode Island as a spot to place illegal aliens as part of the border crisis, and according to some recent polling data is within striking distance of Democratic nominee state treasurer Gina Raimondo. Rasmussen’s latest survey had him just seven points back–a pretty impressive feat for a Republican in a state as blue as Rhode Island.
Up in Maine, GOP governor Paul LePage faces re-election and is polling in statistical ties with Democratic nominee Congressman Mike Michaud. Fitting right in with what Patterson has argued that the GOP needs to do to win nationwide–embracing blue collar workers, the actual voters, over special interests–the Maine GOP’s slogan for the past few years has been: “Working people vote Republican.”
In Maine’s second congressional district, GOP candidate Bruce Poliquin is in the middle of a hard-fought campaign against Democratic state Sen. Emily Cain. The Washington Post gives Poliquin a 64 percent chance of winning, and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) just gave Poliquin “Young Gun” status–a designation it provides to promising candidates it is fighting to get elected.
In an op-ed published this summer, Poliquin argued that special interests in Washington–and the “failure of career politicians” to secure the border and end incentives for illegal immigration–have perpetuated illegal immigration, something he argued hurts American workers.
“The continuing wave of human suffering reaching our shores is hurting hard-working American taxpayers,” Poliquin wrote about the border crisis and illegal immigration as a whole for the Maine Wire. “Families are still struggling through the worst recession in 70 years. It isn’t right that America be forced to deal with and care for tens of thousands of border crossers when we sometimes can’t afford education and health care services for our own legal citizens. Jobs for American workers should be another concern of ours. Millions of immigrants arriving without permission compete with American workers for jobs. This has stifled wage increases for our hard-working middle class families. That’s not fair, either.”
Here in New Hampshire alongside Brown, two U.S. House candidates–former Rep. Frank Guinta and 31-year-old Marilinda Garcia–are taking tough lines on immigration, too. Guinta, who is tied in polling with incumbent Democrat Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, has echoed Brown on the national security risks of an insecure U.S.-Mexican border and has hit President Obama for causing the border crisis with his 2012 executive amnesty for illegal alien minors, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
When asked by WGIR radio host Jack Heath this summer if the border crisis was “somewhat of a manufactured crisis from an executive order,” Guinta replied that he thinks “it is, and the reality is what’s sad about it is now you have states and municipalities who can’t handle this, who want to deal with it in a humanitarian way.”
In an interview here at the New Hamsphire GOP’s “unity breakfast” a few weeks ago where Sen. Paul came to unite the state’s party heading into November’s general election, Garcia–who’s running against incumbent Democratic Rep. Ann Kuster–said she “disagree[s] with the general direction our country is going in.”
“A lot of that has to do with our president, the administration, and the general policies they promote, and the lack of leadership and conviction in the exceptionalism of our country,” Garcia said when asked about the border crisis and the threats from ISIS. “Ann Kuster is a strong supporter of all of that. We’re oriented in completely different directions.”
On the border, Garcia–who was 13 points back coming out of the primary according a New England College poll but is being heavily targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in attack ads–said that “it needs to be secured or else there’s no point in doing anything because any reform wouldn’t make a difference.”
Ed. note: This article originally misstated the position of Fung, Rhode Island’s GOP gubernatorial nominee, on awarding drivers licenses to illegal aliens. Fung does not support giving drivers licenses to illegal aliens.