At a press conference Thursday, former Massachusetts GOP senator Scott Brown said in response to a question about a potential Senate bid in New Hampshire, “I’m not going to rule out anything right now.” A source close to Brown confirms he is thinking about it, saying, “He’s focused on his career in the private sector, but he indicated he’s not ruling anything out, whether it be a run for office in New Hampshire or in Massachusetts.”
There’s no doubt that his running in New Hampshire will attract accusations of carpetbagging: Democrats are already fundraising off that possibility, with New Hampshire Democratic-party chairman Ray Buckley blasting out an e-mail Thursday night asking, “Are you kidding me?! . . . Will you rush a contribution of $10 or more and tell Scott Brown to go back to Massachusetts?” New Hampshire GOP strategist Mike Dennehy says bluntly, “Scott Brown is not Hillary Clinton,” alluding to Clinton’s winning a Senate seat from New York, a state she had never lived in.
But certain factors could help Brown overcome the carpetbagging charge. He has roots in New Hampshire and has owned a home there for two decades. “Scott Brown is very well known” in the state, says Ryan Williams, a Republican consultant who has previously worked for the New Hampshire GOP and New Hampshire governor John Sununu. “Most of the state is within the Boston media market, and it followed his election in 2010 and 2012. Republican activists in New Hampshire like him, and many of them actually drove down to Massachusetts to help him out during his 2010 campaign.”
“He has had a footprint here in New Hampshire for a while,” notes Andrew Hemingway, who was state director for Newt Gingrich’s 2012 bid. “He knows a lot of the players here. His ability to raise funds is unquestioned. He would make this race probably the No. 1 Senate race in the country, and would have the money to do it. And honestly, Jeanne Shaheen is vulnerable. She’s rarely ever seen in the state. She does not have a high profile.”
Brown appeals to tea-partiers, in Hemingway’s view. “I think they’re very interested in Scott Brown,” he comments, adding that “the Tea Party was instrumental in getting Brown elected the first time around.”
But others disagree. “Getting elected as a Republican in Massachusetts is very, very different from being elected as a Republican in New Hampshire,” says Corey Lewandowski, who until last month was the state director of Americans for Prosperity in New Hampshire. Dennehy, too, is dubious about how Brown would fare with primary voters: “Obviously someone who is pro–gay marriage, someone who is pro–gun control, someone who is pro-abortion, someone who has been pro-taxes on some level and pro-spending on some level . . . is on the left side of the spectrum of the Republican party, so he would not be a shoo-in” in the GOP primary.
Lewandowski thinks that Brown would face trouble with tea-partiers in the primary. “There is clearly a move among some tea-party people, not all of them, to always elect or nominate the most conservative person, and under that scenario, I don’t think Scott Brown would probably be their first choice,” he remarks. Even if Brown won the primary, a libertarian candidate could pose trouble for him in the general election: Lewandowski points out that in the state’s first congressional district in 2012, the number of votes separating the winner, Democrat Carol Shea-Porter, from the second-place finisher, Republican Frank Guinta, was slightly less than the number of votes won by the libertarian candidate, Brendan Kelly.
Guinta and Jeb Bradley, majority leader of the state senate, are the two names that Republican insiders in the state bandy about most in their conversations about potential Senate candidates. But the consensus is that there is not yet an obvious GOP Senate candidate — which could give Brown the opening he needs. “Scott Brown wouldn’t clear the field in a senatorial primary, but no one else would clear the field either,” says Drew Cline, editorial-page editor of the Manchester Union Leader, adding that the race is “wide open” now.
GOP strategist Rich Killion stresses that if Brown is at all serious, he needs to make his intentions clear — and the sooner, the better. “The whole viability of the effort,” he remarks, “is really going to come down to how well and how straightforward his introduction is to the voters up here.” Months of coyly flirting with a run, he adds, would only hurt Brown’s standing among voters.
Still, the prevailing attitude of Granite politicos is that Brown isn’t serious about a bid. “If you look at the schedule, you don’t see him making any moves,” Cline comments. “He hasn’t moved his residence to New Hampshire. He hasn’t spent any other time in New Hampshire. He hasn’t done anything that would indicate he’s preparing for a run.”