On Thursday, the Washington Examiner reported that “sources close” to former Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) “say the odds of him running [for the Senate in New Hampshire in 2014] have risen to 50-50.” The political logic behind such a move is compelling. Long term, Brown’s chances of winning are much better in New Hampshire than in Massachusetts.
First elected to the United States Senate in the January 2010 special election to replace the late Senator Edward Kennedy, Brown, then a little known state senator, stunned the political world with a 52% to 47% upset of Democratic State Attorney General Martha Coakley. In 2012, however, Elizabeth Warren defeated him in a hard fought and expensive race in which the final margin, 54% to 46%, was not as close as many Republicans had hoped. Warren spent $42 million and Brown spent $37 million in what became the most expensive Senate race in American history.
Warren was helped by President Barack Obama’s huge popularity in the Bay State. In 2012, Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney in Massachusetts by a whopping 23% margin, 61% to 38%. Just across the state border to the north in New Hampshire, Obama’s margin, though a comfortable 6%, was at 52% to 46%, not the runaway it was in neighboring Massachusetts.
Brown disappointed many Republicans in Massachusetts when he chose not to run in the June 2013 special election to replace Senator John Kerry (D-MA), whose seat became open when he was named Secretary of State. Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA), considered a lackluster candidate by many, defeated Republican newcomer Gabriel Gomez by a 54% to 46% margin in that race.
In 2012 Brown outperformed Romney by 8% in Massachusetts. A similar performance in New Hampshire in 2014 could give him a comfortable victory over the incumbent Democratic Senator, Jean Shaheen (D-NH). First elected in 2008 when she defeated incumbent Republican Senator John E. Sununu by a narrow 52% to 47% margin, Senator Shaheen has nowhere near the national fundraising capabilities of either Senator Warren or former Senator Brown.
Such a matchup, however, is no slam dunk for Brown. In September, a Public Policy Polling poll showed that Shaheen enjoyed a 48% to 44% lead over Brown in a one-on-one race. That poll, however, was taken before the huge failure of the Healthcare.gov website launch, the cornerstone of Obamacare. Significantly, Senator Shaheen voted for Obamacare and Brown voted against it when the law passed the Senate in March 2010.
Brown, who has owned a vacation home in Rye, New Hampshire for several years, recently signaled his availability as a political candidate in the Granite State when it was reported in September that he is selling the Massachusetts home that has been his full time residence since 1995. Boston radio talk show host Howie Carr told Breitbart News on Friday that “I haven’t talked to him [Senator Brown] in a while, but geography is destiny.”
Possible “carpetbagger” complaints against Brown as a New Hampshire candidate may not stick. Besides the fact that many prominent New Hampshire Republicans are apparently pushing him to enter the race, several recent precedents suggest that “carpetbagging” charges are more difficult to stick in the modern political environment.
Hillary Clinton, for instance, had virtually no connection to the state of New York prior to her election to the United States Senate in 2000. More recently, Dan Coats (R-IN), the former Republican Senator from Indiana was elected to the Senate once again in 2012 from Indiana after more than a decade out of office, during which time he was not a resident of the state. And former New Hampshire Senator Bob Smith, who has lived in Florida for a decade, recently announced that he will be a candidate in New Hampshire in 2014.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee is also encouraging Brown to run in New Hampshire. According to the Examiner, “Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who leads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told the Boston Globe last month that the committee wants to recruit Brown to run.”
All signs indicate that Senator Brown will enter the race. The Examiner reported that Brown “has been dropping hints that he’s interested” in running for the Senate from New Hampshire. “Last month, he erased the “MA” (for Massachusetts) from his Twitter handle, which is now just @SenScottBrown. He established a political action committee in New Hampshire that made a $10,000 contribution to the state GOP. And on Dec. 19, he’ll headline a New Hampshire state Republican holiday reception.”
Republicans across the country, even those that consider Brown too much of a moderate, are hopeful that he will choose to enter the 2014 Senate race in New Hampshire. A Brown victory would give Republicans one of the six Senate seats needed to convert the 45 seat Republican Senate minority of the current 113th Congress into a 51 seat Republican Senate majority in the 114th Congress that will convene in January 2015.