Why Scott Brown may have a shot at US Senate from New Hampshire

If Scott Brown wins the GOP Senate primary in New Hampshire, he would face the incumbent, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. The state leans Democratic but harbors anti-Obama sentiment.

Jim Cole/AP
Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown greets voters at the Mount Cube maple sugar house in Orford, N.H., March 22, 2014. Brown will launch his official campaign for a US Senate seat in New Hampshire Thursday, he announced Monday in an e-mail to supporters.

Republican Scott Brown will launch his official campaign for a US Senate seat in New Hampshire Thursday, he announced Monday in an e-mail to supporters.

“I’m ready to make a big decision and I wanted you to be the first to know," the former Massachusetts senator said.

The move, long discussed, sets up New Hampshire as yet another state that Democrats have to worry about this November, putting the incumbent, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, at risk.

If Mr. Brown wins the GOP primary, he'll be set for his third race in a row against a strong Democratic woman. He won his race against Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley in a 2010 special election after Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy died. In 2012, he lost to Elizabeth Warren by eight percentage points.

That 2010 victory in such a Democratic state was largely a fluke, says Andrew Smith, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire in Durham and director of the UNH Survey Center. But even though Brown didn't have a real chance against Senator Warren, he may well have a shot in New Hampshire, especially in a year that favors Republicans to such a degree, Professor Smith says.

New Hampshire also leans Democratic, but only slightly, he says, and this year, anger against President Obama will help Republican candidates like Brown.

That already happened in New Hampshire recently, Smith notes: Just two years after the Democrats won a sweeping victory in the state in the 2008 election, Republicans came back in 2010 and swept both legislative houses in the state and won both US Congress seats as well as a US Senate seat. And they almost won the governorship.

"When you get that sort of wave, you might as well get the board out there and try to ride it," Smith says. "I think that’s what Brown is doing, and it's certainly what Republicans are doing" – forcing Democrats, even if they retain the seat, to spend time and money.

In UNH's most recent poll, which will be released soon, Mr. Obama's approval rating in New Hampshire is below 40 percent, Smith says. Expect Brown, like GOP candidates in other states, to capitalize on that anti-Obama sentiment – and particularly dissatisfaction with Obamacare.

Already, a "super political-action committee" on Monday released a TV ad in support of Brown highlighting his opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

"Four years ago, Scott Brown said this about Obamacare," says a voice-over, cutting to a clip of Brown saying, "It will raise taxes, it will hurt Medicare, it will destroy jobs and run our nation deeper into debt." The ad goes on to describe impacts of the law on New Hampshire before concluding, "Scott Brown was right on Obamacare then. He’s right for New Hampshire now."

Still, Brown faces a formidable opponent in Senator Shaheen, who was New Hampshire governor from 1997 to 2003 before being elected to the Senate in 2008.

Then again, it's not completely certain he'll get the chance to face her. Former US Sen. Bob Smith and at least two other candidates will also run in the GOP Senate primary in New Hampshire, and some Republicans have already been drawing attention to Brown's former support of a federal assault-weapons ban.

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