Scott Brown Has Found His Issue: National Security

The once and possibly future senator decides it's a good time to be a hawk.

The former Massachusetts senator, now running for a Senate seat in New Hampshire, has seized upon growing concern about the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria over the last 48 hours to the point of turning it into a central front for his attacks against incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. 

Brown, in a Wednesday speech that leans heavily on his broader campaign them of tying Shaheen to President Barack Obama, will say that it is ``starting to feel like the world is on fire,'' according to an advance copy of the remarks obtained by Bloomberg Politics.

The speech comes two days after the first U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria, and as Brown's campaign starts running an ad stating that ``radical Islamic terrorists are threatening to cause the collapse of our country.''  It's an issue that rolls into a sweet spot for the retired National Guard officer and one you can expect to hear him hammer throughout the final 41 days of the campaign.

The point of today's remarks, delivered at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics in Manchester, New Hampshire can be boiled down to this: Brown's hawk-ish view on national security is crept closer into the sentiment nationwide. Brown name-checks Senators John McCain and Kelly Ayotte and former Senator Joe Lieberman in his remarks -- the same people on your television every Sunday arguing for a more robust, aggressive U.S. presence abroad. 

Once considered a tenuous position for a candidate in a war-weary nation, Brown's views on foreign policy have been gaining favor. U.S. troops leaving Iraq for good -- something with significant support at the time -- has become an attack line for Republicans who say that created the environment that allowed the Islamic State to grow.  Here's Brown today:

"It was obvious to us, and to the commanders we had spoken to over there, that a residual force was essential to  preserve America’s hard-won gains.  Leave all at once, and right away, and that pullout would be seen as a victory by  our enemies all across the Middle East.  And all kinds of bad actors would move in – exactly as ISIS has now done."

Even more than that, as a majority of Americans support increased action in Syria, Obama's overall approval rating on foreign policy has hit record lows. Brown's sentiment  tracks closely with public opinion in New Hampshire on Obama, which, according to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted September 8-11, placed the president's approval rating in the state at 35 percent. More from Brown: 

"It’s as if the Obama administration is maxed out, worn down, devoid of ideas, and now all the bills are coming due.  This is what foreign policy looks like without clarity and conviction.  This is what the world looks like without American leadership."

Will it work? Brown wasted no time trying to capitalize on the expanding U.S. role in fighting the Islamic State. But Shaheen has hardly been a dove on the issue, voting last week to arm and train Syrian rebels and publicly supporting the expansion of U.S. air strikes. 

Shaheen's campaign attacked Brown on Tuesday for "peddling the politics of fear" and "trying to score political points to help himself just hours after our military launched air strikes." She's also launched a jobs tour, hoping to keep the focus on domestic issues. If her campaign shifts into national security, that will be telling -- and perhaps exactly what Brown's team wants. 

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