Former Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Scott Brown won New Hampshire's Republican U.S. Senate primary on Tuesday, moving forward in his attempt to get back to Washington from another state.
Even though Brown was from a neighboring state, Republican leaders viewed him as the strongest challenger to incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in a race that could be critical in the Republicans' drive to regain a Senate majority.
Brown shocked the nation in 2010 by winning a special election in Massachusetts for the Senate seat long held by the late Democratic stalwart Edward Kennedy. He then lost that seat in 2012 to a populist Democrat.
New Hampshire was one of five states holding primary votes Tuesday to nominate candidates for the November elections in which control of Congress will be at stake.
On his third campaign in five years, Brown hoped for a decisive primary win to launch him back toward the Senate. He faced nine primary opponents, though only two mounted serious campaigns.
A Republican takeover of the Senate would likely crush any hopes President Barack Obama has of moving his legislative agenda through Congress in his final two years in the White House. The Republicans already hold an unassailable majority in the House of Representatives after a wave election in 2010 put them back in charge only two years after Obama's first election. Political handicappers give the Republicans a better-than-even chance of snatching the Senate majority, given Obama's poor approval ratings.
Brown, the front-runner for the Republican nomination from the start, tailored his message toward a November showdown with Shaheen.
"This is one of the most important elections in the country — it could determine the fate of the Senate," he told The Associated Press. "I'm pointing out to them (voters) that I have the tools, resources and the team to actually take on and beat Sen. Shaheen."
Just two years after his surprise victory in Massachusetts, Brown lost the seat to Democrat Elizabeth Warren in 2012. He subsequently moved to New Hampshire, where he had a vacation home and had lived as a toddler, seeking an alternate route to Washington.
If he's successful, Brown would become only the third U.S. senator to serve multiple states and the first since 1879.
Brown's two main challengers were hoping for comebacks of their own. Former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith held the seat for two terms but moved to Florida soon after losing the 2002 primary. Former state Sen. Jim Rubens has been out of office even longer — he served two terms in the state Legislature in the 1990s. Lagging far behind Brown in money, media attention and polls, they cast Brown as a liberal flip-flopper, arguing that he's shown more consistency voting with Democrats than he has sticking to his convictions.
Brown answered his rivals by casting himself an independent problem solver willing to work across the aisle with Democrats, and by reminding voters that unlike Smith and Rubens, he never left the Republican Party. But for the most part, he focused on Shaheen, attempting to tie her to the increasingly unpopular Obama, particularly in her support for Obama's health care overhaul law.
Shaheen contrasted Brown's recent arrival in the state to her decades of public service as a state senator, the first woman elected governor of New Hampshire and the state's first female U.S. senator.
Tuesday is the final primary election of the 2014 midterms until Election Day, for every state but Louisiana.
Other key primary elections Tuesday involve races for governor in four states: New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Delaware also held a primary.