Will NH Go Generic?

There are, I suppose, a lot of articles I could point to today that deal with this or that aspect of the midterm elections, from this or that geographically confined perspective. But there seems to be a consensus that the ultimate test of whether there’s a significant GOP “wave” tonight is whether Scott Brown upsets Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire. So Dave Weigel’s take on the end of that race is especially interesting:

New Hampshire has been the platonic ideal of a 2014 Senate race. The Democrat made no real mistakes, nothing that rose to “gaffe” level, even with trackers on her scent. The Republican ran relentlessly against the Obama administration, insisting that the Jeanne Shaheen that voters liked had somehow been replaced by a yes-woman, and making the case that Isis and Ebola were symptoms of the administration’s incompetence.

Brown’s personal charisma simply hasn’t conquered New Hampshire like it conquered Massachusetts. The last CNN poll, which found a small Shaheen lead, found that 50 percent of voters viewed Brown unfavorably. One of the final polls in Brown’s 2012 Massachusetts race found that only 36 percent of voters disapproved of his job in office. Brown lost that one anyway.

But the closeness of New Hampshire – and it has been close since Labor Day, though with a persistent Shaheen lead – tells us most of what we need to know about 2014. Brown entered the race at a time when any Republican looked like a potential winner. He ran a nationalized campaign and waited for the voters, reporters, and news to catch up with him. Outside groups dove into the race, and he benefited enormously, even as he and Shaheen were transformed into candidate-shaped corks bobbing above a wave of third-party dollars.

This phenomenon is usually described as “nationalizing” a campaign. But I’d say one that so reduces candidates to symbols could be called a “generic” campaign. I doubt Scott Brown is going to win, but Lord knows he’s as generic as it can get.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.