Scott Brown’s Return

by John Fund

Scott Brown is edging closer to ending the suspense about whether he’ll run for U.S. senator from New Hampshire next year. Brown, who served for three years as senator from Massachusetts, has sold his home there and is moving to the “Live Free or Die” state. Later this week, he will headline the New Hampshire GOP’s annual Christmas party.

Politically, the move certainly makes sense for the 54-year-old Republican — President Obama won only 52 percent of New Hampshire’s vote in 2012 versus the 61 percent he got in Massachusetts. New Hampshire is much friendlier political terrain to run from.

Democrats are already attacking Brown for “carpetbagging,” but it’s not likely that charge will carry much weight. Brown has publicly listed a house he owns in Rye, N.H., as his second home for decades and his new state of residence is chock full of former Massachusetts residents who fled the Bay State’s urban headaches and high taxes.

Back in September, the Democratic survey firm Public Policy Polling interviewed several hundred New Hampshire residents and found that Brown would be a formidable contender to New Hampshire’s Democratic senator Jeanne Shaheen. The poll found him trailing her by only 48 percent to 44 percent, within the survey’s margin of error. Shaheen, a former governor, only won her first term in the Senate with 52 percent of the vote herself in 2008.

“Brown has a strong chance because the two states are culturally linked through shared sports team enthusiasms and the Boston media market,” says political consultant Andrew Boucher, who grew up in New Hampshire. “About two-thirds of the state already knows Scott Brown very well because they watch Boston TV.”

Of course, since he was one of the more moderate Republicans when he served in the Senate, Brown would first have to get past a GOP primary. Three conservatives — former U.S. senator Bob Smith, former state senator Jim Rubens, and former think-tank director Karen Testerman — are already running in the primary. Smith served two terms in the U.S. Senate, but has been out of office for over a decade. After being ousted from the Senate in a GOP primary, he immediately moved to Florida, where he launched two spectacularly unsuccessful bids for U.S. Senate there. At age 72, he is considered past his sell-by date. Rubens and Testerman haven’t yet shown the ability to raise the big bucks that it would take to challenge a well-funded Brown candidacy. Should more than one conservative run against Brown, it increases the chances of him winning a GOP primary, even if he polls less than a majority of the vote.

Back in September, most political observers and many of his friends thought Brown would pass on the chance to reenter politics so soon. The fact that he has apparently changed his mind can be attributed largely to one fact: President Obama is now much politically weaker and the opportunity for Republicans to recapture the Senate is much greater than it was then.