5/9/2013 - Republican Scott Brown took Massachusetts and the country by storm a couple years ago when he won a special election for the state’s Senate seat long held by liberal lion Sen. Ted Kennedy.
He was on top of the political world. But he came back to Earth, losing to now-Sen. Elizabeth Warren this past November. Brown, who has indicated he’d like to continue his political career, could be eyeing the Granite State for his comeback.
When asked last month whether he would consider challenging New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Brown, who reportedly owns a summer home in Rye, told reporters he isn’t ruling anything in or out. Well, that pushed the Granite State political world into a bit of a tizzy, and Brown appears to be enjoying his time in the sun, even if actually challenging Shaheen is fraught with obstacles.
“I think he’s having some fun with this,” said political analyst Dean Spiliotes. “Clearly, he’s comfortable in the media’s eye … and I think he’s playing it for what it’s worth.”
For Brown, who recently began working for the high-powered law firm Nixon Peabody and signed on as a commentator for Fox News, turning fun speculation into something more serious might be difficult.
“He’s got some pretty significant hurdles,” Spiliotes said, specifically noting charges of being a carpetbagger and a political opportunist.
Beyond those charges, Brown would need to figure out a way to develop a relationship with New Hampshire, something, at least politically, he’s never had. He was a Massachusetts state senator and then a U.S. senator from the Bay State. And he’d be up against a seasoned, well-liked and established candidate in Shaheen, who has deep roots in New Hampshire.
A poll by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling had Shaheen up by more than 10 points on Brown. That’s telling, but the more telling thing for Spiliotes was more than 60 percent of respondents said they didn’t consider Brown a New Hampshirite.
“That’s a big problem,” Spiliotes said.
In Massachusetts, Brown would always be an endangered species, even if he did win reelection to another major office there, such as governor. The political landscape, though trending toward Democrats, would be much more favorable to Brown in New Hampshire.
Hillary Clinton was the most high-profile case of a politician relocating and running for major office successfully.
To Fergus Cullen, former state GOP chairman, the Scott Brown talk is harmless political fun. He’s not taking it all that seriously.
“It just seems like the whole thing seems a little far-fetched,” Cullen said. “I like Scott Brown, but it just seems unlikely that this is actually going to move forward.”
Cullen, who said he would welcome Brown as a New Hampshire Republican, said he doesn’t hear anyone organizing on Brown’s behalf, nor does he hear Brown’s advisors making calls to key Republicans to gauge political support.
“He’s obviously not doing anything to discourage the conversation, which suggests he doesn’t mind the speculation,” Cullen said. “Whether it’s good for him or not, I don’t know. Everyone is given a certain amount of credibility, and you don’t want to waste it with idle chat.”
Republicans have been challenged in terms of their bench. In Brown, they’d be getting a well-known, highly visible politician who has won in the bluest of the blue states.
Aside from Brown, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley and former U.S. Representative Frank Guinta have been mentioned as potential candidates. While both are experienced politicians, they’d both be making substantial jumps if they were to challenge Shaheen, Spiliotes said. Brown did fare the best out of several candidates in the Public Policy Polling poll when matched head-to-head with Shaheen.
Cullen said the race should be a competitive race, but whether it becomes one remains to be seen.
“New Hampshire Republicans don’t have an announced candidate chomping at the bit to run, and that says something,” Cullen said.
While Brown might be a formidable opponent, part of his problem would extend beyond residency issues — he occupies much of the same moderate, centrist political space Shaheen does.
“For all his tea party flirtations, he’s a moderate Republican,” Spiliotes said. “It would be different if she were considered an Obama progressive.”
A lot of the people Brown would be appealing to — specifically independent voters — are already generally pleased with the job Shaheen is doing, Spiliotes said.
For Brown, keeping the attention on him probably doesn’t hurt.
“For whatever he might decide to do next, it’s a good thing for him,” Spiliotes said.