The Boston Globe had an interesting story this weekend challenging head-on one of the accepted issues surrounding Scott Brown’s run against incumbent Democratic senator Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire: That it used to be a somewhat conservative, Republican-friendly state, until droves of Massachusetts residents started crossing the border and made it into something of a Masshole retirement destination and a Greater Boston bedroom community. Seems like that kind of migration would make the state less friendly to Republican challengers, right?
Well, one, ask Shaheen’s New Hampshire counterpart, Kelly Ayotte, who’s pretty conservative. But also consider who’s leaving Massachusetts: people fed up with the state’s massive and incompetent government, high real-estate prices, and onerous taxes. These are precisely the kind of people, it seems, who’d abandon their culturally liberal leanings to vote for someone who was a sensible fiscal conservative. That’s what the Globe found when they conducted a poll of the state: Transplants look to be some of Scott Brown’s strongest supporters. Here’s how they summarize it:
Over the last five decades, New Hampshire, once a bastion of old-line Yankee Republicans, has turned more Democratic. But the politically potent southern part of the state has become more conservative as it has filled with residents fleeing Massachusetts in search of less expensive housing, lower taxes, and a more libertarian ethos.
These Massplants, as some call them, could be an important base of support for Brown. A UNH poll released Thursday showed Brown’s potential Democratic opponent, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, leading Brown among all voters by 45 percent to 39 percent. But among voters who moved from Massachusetts, Brown was the clear winner, topping Shaheen 50 percent to 37 percent.
Most of these former Massachusetts residents live in Hillsborough and Rockingham counties, along the Massachusetts line, which together provide half the vote in any given election, according to Dante J. Scala, a political scientist at UNH.
Those two counties are also among the most conservative in the state. For example, the share of the state’s Republican presidential primary vote coming out of Hillsborough and Rockingham counties rose from 44 percent in 1976 to 56 percent in 2012, Scala said.
One of the other reasons (anecdotally) that transplants might be willing to vote for Brown is that they’re sympathetic to a fellow transplant. “If he smartened up and got out of Massachusetts, all the better,” one woman from southern New Hampshire told the Globe.
Brown lived most of his life in Massachusetts and served as U.S. senator for a couple years, so moving to New Hampshire to have a chance at another Senate seat has attracted predictable accusations of carpetbagging. But Brown, like many Massachusetts residents, has had a summer house in New Hampshire for years, and as he gets older, like many of them, he’s planning to live there full-time. It’s not like he picked a random state where he thought he could have a chance: He picked a neighboring state that’s cheaper and more conservative, a place with plenty of people who’ve made the same decision (albeit without professional implications).
Liz Cheney redux this is not. Brown’s family has deep roots in New Hampshire, he was born just across the border in Kittery, Maine (where Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine meet — Massachusetts has the jobs, Maine has the outlets, and New Hampshire has the liquor stores), and he grew up in northeastern Massachusetts. However much the states differ politically, they share a common culture:
We’re not looking at a replay of this:
As the Globe’s top-line number indicates, Brown does have an up-hill battle: Shaheen’s an incumbent senator and he’s in some ways a little too liberal, maybe, for New Hampshire’s Republican party. But the changing nature of New Hampshire and Brown’s refugee status might not be the obstacles people think they are.