NASHUA, N.H. – After flirting for months with a Senate candidacy in a state where he has long kept a vacation home, Scott P. Brown, the former Massachusetts senator, told cheering, exultant Republicans on Friday that he was ready to run in New Hampshire.
Brown crossed state lines and began plotting and planning as early as last April, tantalizing state Republicans with his fundraising prowess, occasionally hinting that he might be interested in national office instead, and generally keeping everyone guessing as he weighed a challenge to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a first-term Democrat who is seeking re-election.
And while he did not come straight out and say “I’m your candidate” on Friday, he did the next closest thing: He said he was forming an “exploratory committee,” which allows him to start raising money and hiring a staff. Fox News, where he has been a commentator, immediately canceled his contract Friday, once he notified them of his plans.
National Republicans have been urging Brown to get into the race. Although he lost his Senate seat last year in Massachusetts to Elizabeth Warren by 8 percentage points, he maintained high favorability ratings, and he was among his party’s top fundraisers nationwide. His candidacy would force Democrats to wage another highly competitive Senate race in a year when they are fighting to keep their hold on the Senate.
Brown has the support of some of the party’s most well-heeled allies, with Karl Rove’s “super PAC” American Crossroads planning a $600,000 ad buy next week against Shaheen. She in turn sent out a fundraising appeal telling supporters: “I need your help now to raise $150,000 in the next 48 hours to make sure we are ready to defend our record from Brown and his allies’ attacks. This will be the state that decides the Senate.”
For months now, Brown’s noncandidacy has drawn intense media scrutiny and some comic moments as he relocated from Massachusetts to his vacation home.
At one point last year he seemed to momentarily forget which state he was in. And when he jumped shirtless into ice-cold water this winter in Hampton Beach, N.H., at the Penguin Plunge to benefit the Special Olympics New Hampshire, the picture was splashed across the front page of the New Hampshire Union Leader.
He spent recent days calling elected officials and grass-roots activists around the state to gauge their interest. At the same time, aides have begun offering paid positions to Republican operatives for a prospective campaign.
Brown is not the only Republican in the race. Bob Smith, a former New Hampshire senator who is perhaps the best-known Republican Brown would face in the primary, pooh-poohed Brown’s candidacy.
“This won’t be won by money,” Smith said, “or because you come from Massachusetts or the establishment is imposing you on the people and by playing games saying, ‘I’ll come down and be the hero.’”
Instead, Smith said, the race will be won by campaigning on core conservative values. He said his donations had picked up substantially lately.
“It’s not a money game with me,” Smith said. “I’d rather have 100 people give me $50 than worry about someone giving me $5,000 in some reception somewhere with a cocktail.”