Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown has begun seeking campaign staff while aggressively courting New Hampshire's political elite, marking what local Republicans consider serious steps toward launching a Senate campaign against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
The stakes are high for the GOP's national push for the Senate majority this fall as well as for Brown's own political ambitions.
The longtime Massachusetts resident, having recently relocated to his seacoast New Hampshire vacation home, is expected to launch an exploratory committee to enter the race as soon as Friday, according to several New Hampshire Republican officials who spoke directly to Brown about his plans.
The move officially allows him to begin raising money and hiring staff. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly disclose his plans before an official announcement.
Circling back to my point earlier, Alex Sink didn’t even vote for Obamacare and her candidacy went down in flames. It may be that Brown, after watching Congressman-elect David Jolly (R-FL) celebrate his victory on national television (an extremely flawed candidate, by the way, as so many have pointed out) that he finally decided to take the plunge after all. Brown, of course, ran for re-election against a formidable opponent in a blue state in 2012; now he doesn't have to run in Massachusetts, Obamacare is a train wreck (as predicted), and well-known Democratic congressional candidates are losing special elections on favorable terrain. If Brown is intent on making a political comeback, is this not his chance?
Then again, perhaps not:
Some believe Brown's political future could suffer permanent damage should he ultimately disappoint New Hampshire Republicans by backing out of the Senate race after so much hoopla. But should he run and lose, Brown's resume would be tainted with two high-profile losses in two years.
To which I would simply say: So what? If worst comes to worst, he joins a law firm or renegotiates his contract with Fox News (which, incidentally, he just renewed). No politician ever got very far playing it safe.
At the same time, if Brown does go all in, he would instantly change the contours of the race overnight and give Republicans a fighting chance in New Hampshire. Democrats are already defending at least four vulnerable U.S. Senate seats in red states. How much money and resources can they afford to re-allocate to New England? Not a whole lot, it would seem:
With finite resources, they would rather not devote additional time or resources to a New Hampshire seat that was supposed to be safe.
But Democrats and their allies are already preparing for a worst-case scenario, having spent roughly $360,000 combined on television advertising against Brown in recent weeks. Conservative critics spent heavily to weaken Shaheen earlier in the year, led by the tea party ally Americans For Prosperity, which spent roughly $700,000 on television ads knocking Shaheen's support for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.
Of course they wouldn't. And best of all, Republicans in New Hampshire actually want Brown to run:
Jamie Burnett, a veteran New Hampshire Republican strategist, called Brown the "one potential candidate for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire that people are genuinely excited and hopeful about."
"People have gotten their hopes up," Burnett said. "They would be disappointed if he didn't run."
This wouldn’t be the first time Brown would leave his supporters in the lurch if he bowed out at the last minute. But for the first time since leaving office, it seems, he can't deny the rumors any longer.
I'd be very surprised if he doesn't run.
UPDATE: More tea leaves:
BREAKING: Scott Brown cancels scheduled April Iowa trip in further sign of focus on NH Senate run— Jon Keller (@kelleratlarge) March 14, 2014