Manchester, N.H. — After finishing his final debate in the viciously competitive New Hampshire Senate race Thursday, Scott Brown walked into a Manchester pub, jumped behind the bar, grabbed a beer, and started pouring thirsty patrons shots of Fireball.
Shaun, a regular at the Wild Rover Pub in downtown Manchester, was a proud recipient of one of those shots. “I’m sure he’d prefer to be done for the night,” Shaun says, “but it’s great to see Scott down at the pub.”
“You’re watching him on TV one minute and the next he’s handing you a shot!” exclaims another patron.
Barbara Biggie, a longtime volunteer for Brown, was thrilled. “Did you see what he was doing back there?” she said, referring to Brown’s bartending, “That takes skill.” Barbara and other Brown supporters had gathered at the pub to watch the evening’s debate, and while the performance brought applause, it was the shots afterward that incited the loudest cheers.
Brown’s drink-slinging savvy is standard for the campaign, according to adviser Ryan Williams. “Scott likes to drink a beer. He’s poured beers at bars all around the state.”
Brown tells National Review that it was his fourth time bartending at the Wild Rover, but his serving options are limited. “I can pour beer, wine, and shots,” Brown says. “Anything more complicated than that, you’re out of luck.”
Such is the special appeal of the Scott Brown campaign, where the candidate is the everyman. And in New Hampshire, the down-to-earth retail campaigning is working. (As well as Brown’s unexpected hawkishness on immigration and national security, as my colleague Joel Gehrke wrote the other day.) Brown, down by ten points to Democrat senator Jeanne Shaheen in July, is within just two points today.
When Senators John McCain and Kelly Ayotte campaigned for Brown this week, they went to the Peddler’s Daughter Pub in Nashua. Most candidates would just grip and grin around the booths, but Brown got behind the bar and started serving customers cold ones. He then had McCain and Ayotte do the same. “I can definitely pour better than John and Kelly,” Brown chuckles.
The everyman messaging has won over Greg Qirjazi, a bar and restaurant owner in Hampton, N.H. Greg says he supports Brown because he sees the candidate as just a normal guy. “He comes in here and orders a big beef sandwich,” Greg says. “Then he talks with everyone at the bar.” Greg does not think Scott has ever bartended for him, but says he wouldn’t mind.
Elliot Galt is the College Republican chairman for the state. He says Brown’s relaxed attitude inspired him to throw a tailgate party for the campaign at a UNH football game earlier this month. “We never get politicians to party with us,” Galt tells National Review. “When the campaign agreed to attend and hundreds of college students showed up to see Scott, I was amazed.” Galt says Brown drank beer, took hundreds of selfies, and hung out for three hours. It was the most popular event Galt has thrown all year.
— Adam Sexton (@AdamSextonWMUR) October 11, 2014
A week earlier, Brown had joined a band jam session at a Pork Festival. “It was totally spontaneous,” Williams says. “They just asked Scott if he wanted to get up onstage and play.” “I’m pretty sure they didn’t think I could play,” Brown says, “but we jammed for a while. It was great.”
We will see Tuesday if beer, bartending, and spontaneous guitar riffs can help carry Brown to an underdog victory in the Granite State, but in an age of paint-by-number campaigning, they have enlivened a race no one expected to be close.
— Benny Johnson is digital director for National Review.