By Tom Spencer, Staff Writer
Scott Brown was casual and subdued when he arrived at the University of New Hampshire’s Homecoming tailgate party on Saturday. The scene that greeted him, however, was not.
Boulder Field was packed with tailgating students, families and alumni going back decades. There were people dancing on top of cars and blasting music from their vehicle’s speakers. There were hundreds of grills belching smoke into the crisp mid-50 degree air.
The cloud cover had broken up since the morning when the day’s business of celebration had begun.
The New Hampshire U.S. Senate candidate made a discreet entrance onto Boulder Field on foot, escorted by Police Chief Paul Dean and a few members of UNH College Republicans who had helped to organize the event.
It was not long after Brown’s arrival that a student caught up with him and asked if the former senator from Massachusetts would shotgun one of the two cans of Bud Light with him.
“Not with the police chief right here,” Brown joked.
Brown was dressed in jeans, a UNH Wildcats sweater and a black jacket. Though he was primarily present in a casual capacity, he did discuss what he felt were important considerations for college-age voters.
“The things that are important are the amazing amount of debt that’s being incurred right now by the federal government that [college-age voters] are going to have to pay for,” Brown said. “… the high cost of college itself in terms of student loans. It’s about keeping college costs low.”
When asked how to keep the price of college low, Brown said, “You’ve got to use people like [Student Body President] Joe Sweeney … to question why [the university] is spending for all sorts of different things. But [the race] is also about border security, energy costs, keeping our country safe: Those [issues] are all real.”
When Brown was in the thick of the 500 odd cars parked bumper-to-bumper and the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd jammed around the vehicles, the word of his presence began to spread.
Brown made his way to a truck with a large Scott Brown campaign sign, where he was greeted with a stadium-style chant of “Scott Brown! Scott Brown!”
Here, Brown accepted a can of Bud Light from someone but, despite the urgings of the crowd, sipped the beverage rather than chugged it.
Brown was immobilized here by a throng of students trying to shake his hand or snap a quick selfie with him. The chant morphed into an informal “Scotty Brown! Scotty Brown!”
“You guys are having way too much fun,” Brown said.
But on the edges of this enthusiastic crowd, some of the students were less supportive.
“Give me a break … you Mitt Romney wannabe!” said UNH student Ryan Ovitt. “[Brown] is kind of a piece of garbage. I think he’s just a clone of Mitt Romney, and I don’t trust him farther than I can throw him.”
Other students disagreed with Ovitt.
“[Brown’s] good,” said Christian Armstrong,.“especially on immigration reform. That’s been a long time coming.”
At the upper part of Boulder Field, Brown ran into Don Winterton, who refereed many of the basketball games Brown played while attending Tufts University.
“I’m going to support [Brown] 100 percent,” Winterton said. “Obamacare has been a disaster. Jeanne Shaheen has been an echo of Obama, and in terms of Benghazi, she gave Hillary praise, praise and praise when Hillary did not do anything about Benghazi.”
Among the merry-makers were people in animal costumes, including a bear, a cow and a chicken.
“I’m a big Rand Paul fan,” said Brain Loschiavo, who was dressed as the bear. “But there is no way I’m voting for Scott Brown. He is a sketchy individual.”
Natasha McKenzie, College Democrats of America (CDA) president, had a response to Brown’s visit to UNH because people at Homecoming allegedly were making sexist comments. Brown declined comment.
“Obviously, we encourage any candidate to reach out to young voters, but reaching out to young voters doesn’t mean putting up with offensive, sexist comments—or promoting them,” McKenzie said in a statement issued via email on behalf of the CDA press. “Scott Brown and his campaign’s initial unwillingness to address these comments speaks volumes about his character, and they have no place in our political dialogue.
“With Republicans struggling to win over young people, and especially young women, it’s truly astounding how out of touch they continue to show themselves to be,” the statement continued.
Around 3:30 p.m., Brown made his way to the football stadium, and watched the game fence-side while chatting with members of the UNH College Republicans.
Overall, the UNH community at homecoming gave Brown a reception that was part positive and part negative, but most of the celebrants continued blithely unaware of the political machinations around them.