Scott Brown continues to face harsh criticism - even from fellow Republicans - for considering a carpetbagger campaign in New Hampshire. In Politico yesterday Republicans were quoted as "largely dismissive," and noting that "you'd have to spend the first 10 minutes of every forum explaining why you'll be New Hampshire's senator as opposed to Massachusetts's third senator." University of New Hampshire Pollster Andy Smith called the whole idea 'slightly ridiculous.'
Separately, public polls revealed over half the state - 54% of New Hampshire voters - didn't want him to run for office in their state, and nearly two-thirds don't consider him a Granite Stater.
Other highlights from Politico:
"Washington Republicans aren't terribly excited about the other hopefuls."
"Moreover, Shaheen is no sitting duck; most Republicans acknowledge the incumbent would be hard for Brown to beat."
The full text is included below.
April 24, 2013
Scott Brown has the look of a man not quite sure what to do with himself.
Since losing his Senate seat in November, the Republican flirted with but then decided against running again in Massachusetts, signed up as a commentator for Fox News and landed a gig at a law firm with a lobbying practice. Now he's again looking at a possible run ... in New Hampshire.
Brown is serious enough that he's making at least five trips to the state in a one-month window, including last Saturday for a speech to a county GOP luncheon in Hanover and an appearance at the New Hampshire Young Republicans convention.
The Republican senatorial campaign arm, looking to expand the 2014 map, has promoted the buzz, and Karl Rove has talked him up on cable. Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is favored to win a second term in the swing state, but a Brown entry - the odds are still probably less than 50-50 - would throw the race into flux.
Moving to New Hampshire to run for Senate would pose huge obstacles for Brown, starting with the inevitable carpetbagger tag. But Republicans who have spoken with Brown say he's eager to see what kind of reception he gets from activists.
"Nothing is off the table, and nothing is on the table," Brown said coyly on Fox recently. "Right now, I'm recharging the batteries and working hard."
He said the same thing to reporters during his visit to Hanover, N.H., on Saturday.
But as implausible as a Granite State campaign might seem, it's not hard to see why Brown is testing the waters.
The majority of New Hampshire voters get their news from Boston TV affiliates, so Brown starts with near universal name recognition. Many local Republican organizations mobilized volunteers to help Brown win his 2010 special election upset in Massachusetts. And Brown excels at retail politicking, which the smaller state is famous for.
"He's almost like an adopted son," said New Hampshire Republican consultant Jamie Burnett. "He connects well with regular people who view him as 'one of us.' He's a compelling individual, very well liked. There would be people that would get excited about that prospect."
"Baltimore is further away from Washington than New Hampshire is from Boston," said another Granite State Republican operative. "It's a commuter state in a lot of ways."
Brown also has legitimate ties to New Hampshire: He owns a vacation home in the state, and, as Rove noted on Fox, Brown's mother lives in the state and he can claim ties from eight previous generations.
Moreover, Brown has a national fundraising network that would allow him to outraise any opponent. He raised $47 million for his two Senate campaigns.
National Republicans are in need of a top-tier recruit in the swing state. The strongest candidate Republicans could have fielded, former Sen. John E. Sununu, announced this month that he won't seek a rematch against Shaheen, who beat him in 2008. This was expected but, nonetheless, a blow to GOP hopes to make New Hampshire into a prime pickup opportunity.
Washington Republicans aren't terribly excited about the other hopefuls. State Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, who served two terms in the U.S. House but lost in 2006 and failed in a 2008 comeback bid, is seen as very likely to get in. He did not return a message seeking comment.
Former Rep. Frank Guinta served one term in the House but lost last November. Conventional wisdom is that he will run to reclaim his House seat, but his chief of staff said he is "considering all his options" over the next few months.
There are other draws for Brown. Massachusetts's overwhelmingly Democratic electorate guarantees permanent placement on the list of most-vulnerable senators; that would be much less of a worry in more purple New Hampshire. To wit: Mitt Romney lost Massachusetts, where he had been governor, by 23 points; he lost New Hampshire by 6 points.
And yet, despite all of that, Brown is seen as likely to pass. As strong as a candidate as he could be, Brown would most likely have to get through a tough primary in which he'd be attacked as a carpetbagging moderate who backs abortion rights and an assault weapons ban. And if he survived that challenge - not a given - he'd be up against a well-liked former three-term governor in Shaheen. A poll conducted for the environmental group League of Conservation Voters this week shows Shaheen handily beating Brown, 52-41, in a prospective matchup.
New Hampshire GOP operative Rich Killion said, "A strong conservative would most definitely hop in" to challenge Brown in a primary.
"New Hampshire's a place where you essentially cannot clear a field," said Killion. "My advice to him would be: Just be real straight with New Hampshire voters what your intentions are. As a group, they are gut-level voters. They are very careful to make assessments of people, but because they are gut-level, once they do, they hold hard."
Sununu, the former senator, was largely dismissive of Brown's trial balloon. "There are a number of sharp, experienced Republicans who have lived in New Hampshire for decades who would be tough for Scott to take on in a primary," he told the New Hampshire Union Leader when he passed on the Senate race.
And Granite State connections notwithstanding, Brown would have a lot of explaining to do about why a move was anything other than opportunism.
There is widespread consensus that the carpetbagging charge would prove costly, if not fatal.
In 1992, Democrats nominated a businessman named John Rauh, who had recently moved to the state. During a televised debate, he was unable to answer when the moderator asked which county Chester is in. Then-Gov. Judd Gregg, whose dad had been governor, pounced. It was a factor in a race decided by less than 3 points.
"The way to bring the fight to Sen. Shaheen is not where you'd have to spend the first 10 minutes of every forum explaining why you'll be New Hampshire's senator as opposed to Massachusetts's third senator," said a top Republican in the state. "He'd start off explaining from Day One. And, as they say: If you're explaining, you're losing."
He compared a potential move to a lawyer "forum shopping" for a friendlier judge.
"The feeling here is we're a sovereign state, not a colony," he said.
Moreover, Shaheen is no sitting duck; most Republicans acknowledge the incumbent would be hard for Brown to beat. She was elected governor three times and narrowly lost to Sununu in 2002 before beating him in 2008.
"It would be difficult for him but not impossible. If he was the nominee, I'm sure he'd give Jeanne Shaheen a tough fight," said Burnett, a onetime campaign aide to Sununu. "She won't be easy for anyone to beat, but she's beatable."
A Democratic Senate strategist said Shaheen's line of attack against Brown in a general election context would probably be similar to the three-pronged strategy employed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren last year: attack him as beholden to Wall Street, supportive of tax breaks for millionaires and antagonistic toward women, citing his vote for the Blunt amendment.
"If you take a step back, that's the campaign Barack Obama ran against Mitt Romney in New Hampshire," the strategist said.
In the end, Brown may fall back to what everyone assumed he'd decided after he took a pass on Kerry's seat: cashing in on his political celebrity and getting some much needed R&R rather than running another grueling campaign he'd be uncertain to win.
One adviser insists that the senator has only begun to think through the plusses and minuses.
Andrew Smith, who runs the University of New Hampshire Survey Center and has yet to poll on a potential Brown candidacy, said the whole idea is slightly ridiculous.
"Only the state of New York," Smith said, "will allow carpetbaggers to come in and get elected."