Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown is launching an exploratory committee to run for Senate in New Hampshire, delivering Republicans their best shot at taking down Sen. Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenDems push for panel to probe Russian interference in election Hoyer pushes White House for briefing on Russian election interference This Week in Cybersecurity: Dems press for information on Russian hacks MORE (D-N.H.) this fall.
A GOP source familiar with his plans confirmed to The Hill that Brown is launching the committee. The Associated Press first reported the news via Twitter, and said the committee news could come as “early as tomorrow.”
He moved to New Hampshire late last year and has been campaigning and fundraising for local GOP candidates and the state party for the past six months or so -- all steps that only fueled speculation over his plans.
Brown had made no secret of his interest, and it was in fact intense — and, for Democrats, worrisome — enough that it inspired Democratic outside groups to launch preemptive attack ads on him in the state.
Those ads appeared to have had an impact on his support, widening Shaheen’s lead from three points in a January survey from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling to eight points in a February poll from the same firm.
Another poll, out early this month from Suffolk University and the Boston Herald, showed Shaheen up by 13 points.
Still, Brown recently said the attacks were making him more eager to run.
Multiple sources tell The Hill that Brown and his affiliates have been making calls over the past two weeks to GOP operatives in New Hampshire or with Granite State ties looking to assemble a campaign team.
“They said they were looking for any people looking for field work and anyone for a campaign team to be assembled ASAP,” one Republican source told The Hill of a conversation they had two weeks ago with a member of Brown’s team.
Many operatives in the state are already tied up on other campaigns or working in government, so “New Hampshire’s kind of slim pickins right now” for staffing out a campaign team, the source, who declined to join Brown’s campaign, said.
Alicia Preston, a former Brown campaign staffer, said she had been contacted by some "surprising" names in New Hampshire who hadn't gotten a call from Brown's team.
"I've been getting a lot of emails from people asking me to let Scott know they're interested," Preston said.
Republicans have been encouraging him to run since he first expressed interest in the race, as he’s seen as the one candidate with the starpower and fundraising abilities needed to take down Shaheen.
However, Brown has already faced some frustration from the GOP base in New Hampshire, with gun-rights activists protesting his appearance at a GOP event there.
There are three other Republicans already in the primary — former Sen. Bob Smith, conservative activist Karen Testerman and former state Sen. Jim Rubens — but Brown supporters privately say they expect those candidates to split any anti-Brown vote and deliver him the nomination.
It’s unclear when he’ll announce his plans, though he’s scheduled to speak Friday at the Northeast Republican Conference, a gathering of dozens of Republican leaders and presidential prospects in Nashua, N.H.
A few weeks after that, on April 3rd, he’s scheduled to headline the Ringgold County GOP dinner in Iowa. When first reported, that move had some speculating he may be more interested in a presidential run than a run for Senate.
Brown rose to national prominence after orchestrating an improbable win in the 2010 Massachusetts Senate special election over Democrat Martha Coakley, now attorney general of the state.
Brown ran for a full term in 2012 but lost to Democrat Elizabeth Warren in one of the nation’s most expensive, most high-profile races.
He declined to run in the Massachusetts Senate special election last year, leaving Republicans without a strong contender and stoking some frustration within the party there after suggesting he’d run.
Since his 2012 loss, he signed on as a Fox News commentator, but his contract stipulates that if he forms an exploratory committee to run for office, his contract will be terminated. Fox declined to comment on the news.
New Hampshire Democratic Party Communications Director Harrell Kirstein said in a statement that “Scott Brown is for Scott Brown and the powerful interests that back him, not New Hampshire.”
“So when he gets back from his next trip to Iowa, he'll find himself in a tough Republican Primary against Republicans who are actually from New Hampshire. If he survives that, he’ll face an even tougher general election against Jeanne Shaheen, whose common sense leadership makes a difference for New Hampshire and people here know it,” Kirstein said.
“New Hampshire isn't going to let Scott Brown and his big oil buddies like the Koch Brothers buy themselves a Senate seat,” he added, a reference to the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity, which has been running ObamaCare attack ads in the state focused on Shaheen.