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One bare-chested, above-the-fold photo in a local newspaper does not a campaign make, but that hasn’t stopped rampant speculation in New Hampshire and on Capitol Hill about when — or whether — former Massachusetts Sen. Scott P. Brown might hop into the Granite State’s 2014 Senate race.
There is perhaps no greater mystery this cycle than Brown, the Republican who sold his Massachusetts home and moved to New Hampshire a year after his 2012 Bay State defeat at the hands of Democrat Elizabeth Warren.
New Hampshire Republicans seem anxiety-ridden over whether Brown will run; most sources approached for this story tabbed the chances of that at 50-50. If the well-known and potentially well-financed Brown opts out, many Republicans believe their chance to capture Democrat Jeanne Shaheen’s seat will drop significantly.
“At least to the establishment Republicans, pragmatic conservatives, realists, the field that we have now doesn’t have a credible candidate,” said Fergus Cullen, a former state GOP chairman and current consultant.
Cullen, who penned a column in the New Hampshire Union-Leader last month urging Brown to run, said that to the extent people are already talking about the race in GOP circles — at lunches, over beers — “It’s just despondence about the quality of the field.”
But it appears those Republicans will have to wait with bated breath for Brown’s decision. Those closest to the former senator say he is keeping his cards close to the vest and might not announce his plans until April or May. New Hampshire’s filing deadline is in June and the primary is not until Sept. 9, the latest of the cycle.
National Republicans say they are still in contact with Brown and downplay any negative ramifications of a late start for the proven fundraiser’s campaign. But they also concede that his potential entry would be crucial in expanding the playing field for the GOP, which needs to net six seats to recapture control of the Senate. Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rates this race Favored Democratic.
Multiple sources said they believe a late entry in the race could work to Brown’s advantage. It would allow for a shortened primary calendar and, in turn, less bruising from more conservative opponents. Of course, for that strategy to work, the assumption that Brown can raise money and build a campaign infrastructure quickly would have to be true — assuming there’s even a strategy at all.