The former Massachusetts senator has spent the past several days popping into local diners and pubs across the state, eschewing more formal campaign events to instead find voters where they might be hanging out anyway. It might seem like a risky place for politicking, but it’s places like the Arena Sports Bar where the former Massachusetts senator’s talents for retail campaigning shine through the most, and where his everyman persona seems its most authentic.
The difference between these events and his sometimes stiff TV ads are night and day.
“He genuinely enjoys being here,” says Ryan Williams, a longtime New Hampshire GOP political operative and an adviser for the Brown campaign. “This is fun for him, it’s not work.”
On the other side of the room, Brown eyes another table and begins to walk over. “Enjoy the game!” he shouts back. His sturdy rubber watch pokes out as he takes a sip of his drink. It’s not the sort of place you’d find his opponent.
For her part, Shaheen has also spent the past several days crisscrossing the state, admitting that her team’s voter turnout effort will make or break her chances at reelection. But while Brown has gone table to table at restaurants and bars — frequently joined by other top-ticket candidates like Walt Havenstein — Shaheen’s campaign events are far safer.
But that's not to say Shaheen is any less skilled a politician. To outsiders, Shaheen’s unassuming demeanor frequently masks the political powerhouse she is in New Hampshire, where she also served as governor and where she is widely credited by political operatives with helping build the modern state Democratic Party.
And the relationships she has developed over her decades of public service in the state show through on the campaign trail; her warmest and most personal moments at events are frequently with members of the Democratic establishment. Those relationships, which she has developed and nurtured over time, are the formative engine driving her campaign. In stump speech after stump speech, local leaders and allies tally off the ways in which Shaheen has helped the community.
The race is locked in a dead heat with just one day left before the election. For all his talents connecting with would-be voters in person, Democrats gleefully point out that Brown’s favorability in the state is underwater. That is in part due to the nasty campaign against him, but also undoubtedly because of lingering skepticism over his New Hampshire roots.
"I don’t want someone coming in from out of state that thinks he can do something when he has no track record here,” Claremont Mayor James Neilsen, a Republican, said during a Shaheen event in Sullivan County on Friday. “Scott Brown has no track record.”
But it's also true that President Obama, who is extremely disliked in the Granite State, has been a huge drag on Shaheen's reelection prospects, even as polls show she remains well liked in the state.
“I don’t think people have a huge problem against [Shaheen] other than the fact that she voted for the president 99 percent of the time,” said Joe Perrotto, 64. “This is all about Obama, the arrogance. He doesn’t know anything.”