Scott Brown declares for Senate in N.H. Can he claim an inner Granite State?

After months of rumors, Republican Scott Brown announced he's running again for the US Senate, this time from New Hampshire, where he'll have to battle the label: 'carpetbagger.'

Dominick Reuter / Reuters
Republican Scott Brown announces his bid for the United States Senate primary election in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Thursday. The former senator from Massachusetts launched his Granite State campaign with an attack on incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's vote for the Affordable Care Act, which is unpopular in the state.

Formalizing what had been broadly hinted for months, Republican Scott Brown has made it official that he is running for the US Senate, again – but not in Massachusetts.

Mr. Brown, the former Massachusetts senator, announced his campaign to represent New Hampshire in the US Senate at a hotel in Portsmouth Thursday night. While he tries to woo voters away from a Democratic incumbent whose support for the Affordable Care Act might have drained some of her support, he'll also have to convince Granite State residents that he is one of them, not an interloper crossing state lines.

Republican leaders had over the last year been encouraging Brown to challenge Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and help the GOP's bid to take the Senate. Senator Shaheen won her seat in 2008 against Republican incumbent John Sununu, making her the first Democrat to win a US Senate seat in the state since 1974.

In comments likely to signal his campaign platform, Brown spent much of his speech lampooning Shaheen’s “yes” vote in 2010 on the Affordable Care Act, which polls have shown is unpopular with New Hampshire voters. 

She’s wrong on the issues affecting the people of New Hampshire,” said Brown, in his speech. “She placed a health-care bill on this state, and on our country, that people didn’t want.”

Riffing on New Hampshire’s “live free or die” motto, he also tweeted later that night: "Obamacare forces us to make a choice, live free or log on – and here in New Hampshire, we choose freedom.”

Brown, who recently resigned from a Boston firm, was a relative unknown when he came from behind in a 2010 special election to win the seat long held by Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy. His upset victory, widely attributed to tea party support, turned on a critique of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

But Brown was booted from that seat in his quest for reelection in 2012, when voters in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 3 to 1  sent Democrat Elizabeth Warren to Washington, after a bitter and expensive campaign season.

Last year Brown sold his Massachusetts home and moved full-time to his vacation home in coastal New Hampshire, a move that qualified him to run for US Senate in the state, more reddish in hue than is Massachusetts. New Hampshire Republicans have a slight edge over Democrats among registered voters – 30 percent to 29 percent in the 2012 campaign cycle – but undeclared voters, at 41 percent, represent the largest voting group in the state.                                      

In New Hampshire, he has since jumped feet-first into local culture, appearing bare-chested on the front page of The New Hampshire Union Leader this winter as he gamely plunged into near-freezing water in Hampton Beach in a community event to benefit the Special Olympics. For the last few months, he had also been tantalizing the public with occasional suggestions that he might be prepping for a political career in the state.

Polls on Thursday showed that Brown’s courtship of New Hampshire might be effective, putting Shaheen ahead of Brown, but not by much, and certainly not by as much as a month ago, when Shaheen had a 13 percentage point lead in a prospective matchup with Brown. Television station WMUR’s poll Thursday found that Shaheen had a lead of 45 percent of voters over Brown’s 39 percent haul, with 14 percent of voters undecided and a margin of error of plus-or-minus 5 percentage points.

Still, Brown, who has in most of his recent speeches emphasized his family ties to the Granite State, where he was born, and his boyhood there, has also been at pains to convince the public that he’s a proper New Hampshire man, not an opportunist from Massachusetts.

Thursday night, former Boston Mayor Tom Menino (D) said on Boston's WCVB-TV that the word “carpetbagger" aptly described Brown, calling Brown “not a New Hampshire person” but a “Massachusetts person” and predicting that Shaheen will win come November. "Carpetbagging" has also come up in polls on the race, with likely voters choosing it as one of the words they associate with the candidate. 

State Democrats have also indicated that Brown’s association with Massachusetts will be a linchpin to Shaheen’s campaign, seeking to cast Brown as a powerseeker who is dubiously loyal to New Hampshire and its voters’ interests but is using the state as a launchpad for his own ambitions, as well as those of the big business interests that support him.

On Thursday, former state Democratic Party chairwoman Kathy Sullivan told The Washington Post that Brown was “demonstrating more clearly than ever that he’s not running to serve New Hampshire. He’s running to advance his own interests and the Big Oil, Wall Street guys who pay for his campaigns," she said.

Brown must first get through a Republican primary in September before facing Shaheen, but he is projected to easily win it.

Thursday night, he batted back at Democrats’ efforts to peg him as a disingenuous interloper, tweeting: “Should I have the privilege of rep NH, I can promise you this. I will answer only to you, the people of NH.”

“I’m nobody’s yes man,” he said.

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