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Polls Show New Hampshire's U.S. Senate Race Is A Tossup


Many of you will be fitting a stop at the polls into your daily routine on the way to work, lunch time, maybe early evening. Whenever you go, whatever choices you make, we'll start seeing results tonight. And NPR's Tamara Keith says watch New Hampshire closely. The results there might be telling.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: The race for Senate in New Hampshire is a microcosm of this whole midterm campaign nationally. There's the Republican, Scott Brown, doing everything he can to nationalize the race, to make it about an unpopular president, in what seems like the crisis of the week - the VA scandal, border security, ISIS, Ebola.


SCOTT BROWN: Are you fed up? Well, we have a chance to do something about it. We can send a person who votes how much for the president?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Ninety-nine percent.

BROWN: I'm sorry. I didn't hear you. How much?

KEITH: Ninety-nine percent. Some variation on that number has made it into almost every competitive Senate race.


BROWN: Listen, you deserve better.

KEITH: And then there's the Democrat, incumbent Jeanne Shaheen, who is doing absolutely everything she can to make this a local race, one where Brown's recent move from Massachusetts is an issue.

JEANNE SHAHEEN: I think this race is about New Hampshire, it's about who's going to best represent New Hampshire, who's going to work for the constituents, the voters of the state, the families of New Hampshire, our small businesses - versus somebody who we know, when he was in Washington, worked for the big guys.

KEITH: And there you have it. Your 2014 midterms in a nutshell. Shaheen is soft-spoken and well-liked, a former governor and first-term senator, who rode in on a wave with President Obama. Andy Smith is director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

ANDY SMITH: If Jeanne Shaheen loses as a popular incumbent, someone with a long history in the state, someone who is not unpopular - even among Republicans - if she loses, that means that this is a nationalized election. And the same forces that might lead to her defeat will have been operating in other states as well.

KEITH: And like Senate races from coast-to-coast, the candidates and their teams here have concluded this one all comes down to turnout. And that's what brought Terry Erwin and his clipboard to a quiet neighborhood on the south side of Concord. Here's how he describes the people on his list.

TERRY ERWIN: All good Democrats.

KEITH: The ones the New Hampshire Democratic Party wants to make sure go to the polls. As he walks, leaves blow down the street. Yard signs, many for Shaheen, flap in the wind.

ERWIN: The more signs that we have in the yard, the greater the likelihood they're not going to be on the list.

KEITH: Because after months of this sort of canvassing, they're not looking to persuade, just to motivate. Shaheen told a group of supporters at a bookstore in Concord, she even has her husband Billy working the phones.

SHAHEEN: Listen, we got to get everybody we know to go vote on the way over here. Billy's making calls in the front seat while I'm working in the backseat, and he's convincing people - he's actually getting their count on how many people they're going to get to the polls tomorrow and checking them off.

BILL SHAHEEN: And I'm holding them accountable. And this is what we know. If everybody in the polling says they'll vote for us and they vote for us, we're going to win this election. We're going to win this election.

KEITH: Brown is doing much the same thing, from the custom-wrapped bus bearing his name that's crisscrossing the state.


BROWN: Do not wake up on November 5 and say, my gosh, we should've done a hundred more phone calls. We're banging out phone calls. We've done about 600 phone calls in the last two-and-a-half days on the bus, when there's cell service - we do it.

KEITH: And he's doing the ultimate in retail politics.

BROWN: Who wants pie?

KEITH: Handing out pie at McKenna's Restaurant. From the other side of the counter, I ask if he's feeling confident.

BROWN: It's not over until it's over. As the Red Sox, Yankees - I've been an underdog the whole time, and we're going to take it home - lot of momentum, a lot of energy, so we'll see.

KEITH: Shaheen is similarly reticent.

SHAHEEN: I'm never confidence until the last vote's counted.

KEITH: And who can blame them for feeling uncertain? Tamara Keith, NPR News, Manchester. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.