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Scott Brown 2016? Why testing the Iowa waters is a smart move

Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) showed up in Iowa over the weekend – bait for political media. But 2016 aside, Brown and the GOP still win from the maneuver.

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    Former US Sen. Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts watches a traditional drum ritual of the Pequot tribe during the 11th Annual 'Keeping the Dream Alive' dinner in Nashua, N.H., commemorating the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death on April 4. Declaring that he's likely not done with politics, Mr. Brown refused to rule out a run for office in New Hampshire, while describing the Granite State as 'almost a second home.'
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Scott Brown for president. Really? 

For folks who follow politics, that may well be the reaction. The former Republican senator from Massachusetts – who served not even three years after winning a stunning upset in a special election to replace the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) – turned up in Iowa over the weekend.  

And that has set political tongues to wagging, given the Iowa caucuses’ role as the first hurdle on the way to the presidency.

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But, again, we ask: Scott Brown? Sure, he has good hair, a likable persona, and decent campaign skills. And he was a rare Republican who succeeded in the liberal Northeast (though ask Mitt Romney how that worked out in a national setting). But after losing to Democrat Elizabeth Warren last November, Mr. Brown didn’t even run for Massachusetts’ other Senate seat, the one vacated by John Kerry when he became secretary of State. Instead, Brown opted for a job at a major Boston law firm and a gig as a Fox News contributor.

So here’s why Brown’s visit to Iowa and other Midwestern locales – clearly aimed at planting his name in the 2016 chatter – makes sense: It helps the Republican Party, and it helps his own political future.

“Having all the viewpoints in there is good,” says Ford O’Connell, chairman of CivicForumPAC. “It does not mean everyone who’s in it is in it to win it. But I think he is, on the one hand, doing the party a service. The question is: How far does he push what appears, right now, to be nothing more than a publicity stunt.”

The Republican Party is splintering into three wings – establishment, libertarian, and neoconservative – and Brown’s moderate, “big tent” message potentially helps the party expand its appeal. Brown’s politics are fairly typical Northeastern Republicanism: hawk on defense and moderate on social issues, though not as liberal on gay rights and abortion as some in that camp. Brown’s message aligns most closely with Gov. Chris Christie (R) of New Jersey, a likely 2016-er with establishment ties.

Brown is also testing the waters for three other possible campaigns – governor of Massachusetts or US Senate seats from either Massachusetts or New Hampshire. Yes, New Hampshire: He owns a house there and has family roots there.

So, by floating his name for the 2016 presidential race, he is generating national media attention – good news for all those other seats he might be running for. (And we fully acknowledge that by writing this blog post, we’re playing along.)

There’s synergy, too, with his day jobs. Any buzz from national media coverage makes him more effective at the law firm as a rainmaker and a political celebrity on TV. In a Boston Globe interview, he expressed wonder at being recognized in such far-flung places as Mitchell, S.D., and Fergus Falls, Minn.

“They say, ‘I see you on Fox all the time,’ ” Brown told the Globe. “There’s certainly an appreciation here for the straightforward way I do my job and set out facts.”

Political analysts don’t rule out that Brown could end up mounting a legitimate presidential campaign. After all, the 2016 Republican field is wide open. But until Brown starts doing extensive polling, reaching out to national donors, and hiring new staff, then he’s still in a holding pattern, says Mr. O’Connell, the GOP strategist. 

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