Scott Brown revs up for Senate run
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Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown on Friday began laying the groundwork for a challenge to Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenQuestions loom over Franken ethics probe State Dept. spokeswoman acknowledges 'morale issue' Democrats scramble to contain Franken fallout  MORE (D-N.H.) in New Hampshire.

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In a well-received address at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference, a gathering of party leaders — many of whom are current or prospective candidates for 2014 and 2016 — Brown outlined his rationale for a return to politics.

His main driver: ObamaCare.

“Election Day is still eight months away, and [Democrats are] already in panic mode,” he said in prepared remarks. “A big political wave is about to break in America, and the Obamacare Democrats are on the wrong side of it.”

Brown said he has filed an exploratory committee for a Senate run and started a listening tour in the state to gauge support for his candidacy. He also launched a Web video that features New Hampshire residents urging him to run.

A Senate run by Brown would give Republicans their best shot at taking down Shaheen, a popular two-term senator and former governor whom they believe to be vulnerable to attacks on the healthcare law.

He’s the only potential GOP candidate in the race with the star power and fundraising ability, Republicans say, to give Shaheen much of a fight. And his entry in the race was seen as yet another affirmation of the increasingly difficult political climate facing Democrats this midterm election year, with the president facing all-time low approval ratings and persistent discontent with ObamaCare dragging Democrats down.

Brown has attacked Shaheen on the healthcare law in fundraising pleas for the New Hampshire GOP. In his speech, he called the law “disastrous” and declared that “the party that put everything on the line for that takeover of healthcare is going to have a lot to answer for” this fall.

Democrats argue Brown will be vulnerable to carpetbagging attacks, however, as he moved to New Hampshire just late last year. They plan to argue to voters that Brown is engaged in politics, and the New Hampshire Senate race specifically, only to promote his own welfare and profile.

Brown seems aware of the potential attacks, highlighting his childhood ties to the state in his address, telling the crowd that he spent time with his grandparents in New Hampshire during his well-documented “challenging early years,” when he dealt with abuse.

He ticked off a litany of local landmarks, like the “Rocks along the Rye Coast,” “Prescott Park” and “Strawberry Banke” in Portsmouth.

“Those places were a refuge for me as a kid,” he said.

The race may take on many of the same contours as his last losing election against now Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Democratic interest groups are planning to hammer him on women’s issues and environmental issues, much as they did in 2012, and argue the latter will again be particularly potent because he’s up against a woman again.

And Brown signaled much of the everyman appeal that made him such a compelling candidate for many voters in 2012 — he outperformed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the state by about 9 points and kept Warren’s lead to single digits — will again color his campaign in New Hampshire.

At the opening of his address, he mentioned his famous GMC Canyon pickup truck, a prominent prop in his last race that he used to travel the campaign trail.

“I’ve traveled so much in New Hampshire that I’m closing in on an important personal milestone: 300,000 miles on my truck.  I’m pretty proud of that old GMC Canyon, and it’s sure looking good with those license plates that say, ‘Live Free or Die,’ ” he told the crowd.

But 2012 is not 2014. The political winds are blowing much harder against Democrats due in part to persistent issues with ObamaCare. Democratic turnout is expected to drop considerably from 2012, and Brown is facing a more favorable electorate to begin with in New Hampshire, which is about evenly split between Democrats and Republicans but boasts more than 40 percent independent voters.

Unlike 2012, GOP outside groups, and one in particular that’s affiliated with the billionaire Koch brothers, can focus solely on competitive House and Senate races, and already are. That Koch-backed group, Americans for Prosperity, has reserved or spent $1.2 million against Shaheen at this point, according to a Shaheen aide.