Brown, who sold his Massachusetts home and moved to New Hampshire in 2013, has provided the great mystery of this political cycle: Will he challenge Democrat Jeanne Shaheen for the New Hampshire Senate seat in 2014?
Indeed, “there is no strategy” is a common refrain from both Republicans — in various rings of the Brown orbit — and Democrats. And events and bizarre markers from the past week seem to bear out that claim, from the much-buzzed-about shirtless photo in the Union-Leader taken at a charity polar bear swim to a separation of ties with a vendor, Newsmax.com, that blasted out a bizarre article to Brown’s email list Wednesday morning about Alzheimer’s disease conspiracy theories.
Brown’s contact with Republicans in the Granite State has so far been relatively elusive. Sources told CQ Roll Call that Brown has given no hint of his political intentions in responses to their inquiring emails, including those sent after the shirtless photograph appeared. Instead, the former senator responded to those notes with the playful retort that he wasn’t even flexing.
“I talk to him periodically,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who noted she had a friendly relationship with the then-Massachusetts Republican when he was in the Senate. “You’ll have to talk to him, I really don’t have any special insight.”
CQ Roll Call attempted multiple times to reach Brown via telephone and he did not return a voicemail message.
By dragging out his decision process, Brown risks stringing along national Republicans in a way that might close doors to future races. And though there was more outward energy toward a potential Brown run, it seems that some operatives have cooled on the idea that he will actually commit to campaigning for the seat.
“I don’t think Scott Brown runs, but my wife hopes I look like he does when I am 50,” quipped one Republican consultant.
Even if the establishment wins out and gets its guy to run, Brown still faces other issues. In addition to combatting a potential “carpetbagger” narrative, can he be victorious in a traditionally swing state if he’s unable to win over the conservative end of his own base?
At his last major public event in New Hampshire, a Dec. 19 state party holiday event in Nashua, 250 gun rights advocates protested Brown’s appearance. And questions about his conservative credentials could come from any of his potential opponents — the declared GOP candidates include former Sen. Bob Smith, former state Sen. Jim Rubens and tea party activist Karen Testerman.
In a chance interview aboard a flight from D.C. to New Hampshire, a CQ Roll Call reporter asked Smith about Brown. Smith said the choice for Granite State voters would be between him, a conservative, and Brown, a moderate.
The available fourth-quarter fundraising reports for his potential opponents show a wide disparity, given that Shaheen already has $3.4 million in cash on hand. In his race against Warren, the most expensive of the 2012 cycle, Brown spent nearly $35 million, only to lose by 8 points.
As for the outsider narrative, Cullen suggested a famous “template” for a Brown run: Hillary Rodham Clinton, who won a New York Senate race in 2000.