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September 22, 2014

John McCain Holds Court in ‘Second Favorite State’

John McCain Holds Court in Second Favorite State

Brown, left, and McCain, right, campaign in New Hampshire. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

DERRY, N.H. – Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has returned to New Hampshire to campaign — but this time, it’s for former Sen. Scott P. Brown.

“It is with great nostalgia I come back again to my second favorite state,” McCain told a Pinkerton Academy auditorium, where he stumped for Brown, a Massachusetts Republican waging an uphill battle to unseat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Granite State Democrat.

John McCain Holds Court in Second Favorite StateIn predictable fashion, McCain joined Brown for what was billed as a foreign policy town hall meeting, at times taking charge as Monday’s star attraction. The event was part of a broader “New Hampshire Speaks” tour for Brown, but audience questions ran the gamut, even touching on impeachment.

“I’m a realist. That’s not going to happen,” Brown said of impeaching the president, instead pushing his stump speech about Shaheen’s record of voting with President Barack Obama and Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

“It would require 67 votes in the United States Senate for an impeachment,” McCain said.

McCain stuck around for photos with supporters and questions from local and national media extending well beyond an aide’s call for “last question.”

His interaction with the public and press ran longer than the candidate on the New Hampshire ballot. When McCain got a question about the optics of that, an aide jumped in to say that Brown had “to get to Boston before we do.”

“He had to leave to go to another event which I’m not going to, but he spends a lot of time shaking hands,” McCain said.

Of course, the mere mention of “Boston” brings up Brown’s background as a senator from the neighboring Bay State, and the accusations of carpet-bagging that inevitably come with his switch.

John McCain Holds Court in Second Favorite State

Brown is running for Senate in New Hampshire. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“But he was born here in New Hampshire, and 50 percent of the people in New Hampshire were not born here,” McCain said. “Sen. Shaheen was born in Kansas. I think people will make a judgment on the issues.”

Shaheen was, in fact, born in the Midwest, though not in Kansas. She hails from St. Charles, Mo. New Hampshire is the home state of her husband, Bill, and the couple took up residence in New Hampshire after his law school graduation.

While much of the town hall event was favorable and friendly, Democratic trackers were on hand, and the Brown campaign made a point of highlighting the fact that anyone who signed-in at the door would be allowed to attend, regardless of affiliation.

Last week, BuzzFeed reported on previous Brown town halls being designated as private events. Republicans are trying to highlight a contrast with Shaheen, who has held a number of smaller events.

Shaheen appeared with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., on the New Hampshire seacoast at the same time as Brown’s event with McCain Monday. The timing made it impossible for reporters from national outlets, including NPR and the Los Angeles Times, to make that trip.

Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte introduced Brown and McCain, but did not share the stage for the town hall. She described her endorsement of Brown as someone who would provide her with a partner in the Senate.

John McCain Holds Court in Second Favorite State

Ayotte is a New Hampshire Republican. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Signs for Brown’s primary challengers are visible in the New Hampshire countryside and along medians of suburban thoroughfares here, including former New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith.

But Ayotte, Brown and McCain were clearly focused on November.

At one point, McCain responded to a question about bipartisanship in the Senate by reprising familiar complaints about Reid locking down the chamber’s amendment process. He implored “please nobody go to sleep,” before describing the manner by which Reid takes up all available amendment slots to prevent GOP proposals from seeing the light of day.

While McCain did not slip into full-blown Senate-speak and use the term “amendment tree,” he did highlight the pledge by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow a more open process with longer workweeks.

“About Thursday night or Friday morning, they run out of amendments,” McCain said. “That’s the way the Senate works, but unfortunately that hasn’t happened.”

CQ Roll Call caught up with Ayotte later in the day following a tour of Axenics Corp., a contract manufacturer in Nashua. She wouldn’t speculate on how much the focus on the town hall meetings would resonate in November, where Brown is expected to be the Republican facing off against Shaheen.

“There’s a long tradition of town halls in New Hampshire. You know, that is I think exemplified by how John McCain won — came back to win — twice in New Hampshire, and it was really through the town hall that he did that,” Ayotte said. “People in New Hampshire do expect a lot … of personal interaction, and it’s a good thing.”

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