Brown, who moved to his native New Hampshire late last year to
explore a run for office, has focused much of his energy on
attacking the Affordable Care Act, an issue Republicans are making a
centerpiece of 2014 campaigns.
"So many problems with our economy happened because of Obamacare.
And Obamacare could not have happened without a rubber-stamp 'yes'
vote from Senator Shaheen," Brown told a crowd of a couple hundred
supporters in a hotel ballroom in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, near
the state's southern coast.
"Obamacare forces us to make a choice, live free or log on — and
here in New Hampshire, we choose freedom," Brown said.
The Affordable Care Act passed the U.S. Senate in 2010 by a margin
of 60-39, with all Democrats, including Shaheen, voting in favor of
President Barack Obama's top domestic priority.
Technical glitches plagued the new system's rollout. Obamacare is
less popular in New Hampshire than nationally, according to February
poll, which found 53 percent of adults in the state opposing the law
and 34 percent favoring it.
Despite the early problems, the White House released figures last
week showing that 7.1 million people had enrolled through the new
exchanges, exceeding most expectations.
New Hampshire Democrats note that the state's legislature recently
voted to accept federal subsidies expanding the Medicaid health care
program for the poor in New Hampshire, a move made possible by the
Affordable Care Act.
"Scott Brown may find that what he thinks the public's attitude here
in New Hampshire is, may not be what he finds when he gets around
the state because repealing the Affordable Care Act means repealing
health care for 50,000 citizens," said New Hampshire statehouse
Speaker Terie Norelli, a Democrat.
Before any matchup with Shaheen, Brown faces a competitive
Republican primary in September, with his leading rival Bob Smith, a
conservative who is trying to reclaim a seat he held from 1990 to
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Brown has already won support from national Republican groups eager
to reclaim a majority in the Senate, which Democrats currently
control by 55 seats to the Republican's 43.
Two polls of New Hampshire voters released on Thursday showed him
gaining ground on Shaheen.
Public Policy Polling found 49 percent of 1,034 New Hampshire voters
would vote for Shaheen and 41 percent for Brown in a head-to-head
matchup. Prior polls had given Shaheen, a former governor, a wider
lead on Brown.
A WMUR television poll, with a sample size of 387 likely voters
found Shaheen with a narrower 45-39 lead.
Brown's strong anti-Obamacare stance drew divided reaction from New
Bill Gannon, a 51-year-old theater-curtain business owner from
Sundown, said he'd become interested in Brown in part because of his
"I don't like the new healthcare law," said Gannon, who had joined
the crowd in the hotel ballroom to hear Brown speak. "We need the
Senate back and this is a guy who's electable."
Outside, 80-year-old Joan Webber of Kensington, New Hampshire, who
was holding a sign reading "Scott Brown is a twerp" said he
supported Shaheen and the Affordable Care Act.
"He probably has his insurance already," Webber said of Brown. "He
just doesn't want the poor to get it."
(Reporting by Scott Malone; editing by Dan Grebler, Ellen Wulfhorst,
David Gregorio and Cynthia Osterman)
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