- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown’s bid for a Senate seat in neighboring New Hampshire is shaping up to be a win-win for the GOP — giving the party a chance to unseat first-term Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and, at the same time, forcing Democrats to spend money defending her.

Mr. Brown, who served part of a term as a senator from Massachusetts before losing in 2012, announced last week he is exploring a run in New Hampshire. The move has already pushed prognosticators to rate the seat in play in November’s elections.

It won’t be easy for Mr. Brown in the Granite State: Andrew Smith, a pollster at the University of New Hampshire, said his surveys show that Mr. Brown is not very popular and could struggle to shake the carpet-bagger label after just recently establishing his residency in New Hampshire.

“I still don’t think he has a great chance of winning here,” Mr. Smith said, though he added that Mr. Brown’s run could help the GOP anyway.

“I think there is a calculation by the Republican Party nationwide that if Brown runs here then the Democratic Party has to spend money on that race, which means Democrats then have less money they can spend in other competitive races,” Mr. Smith said. “I think the Republican Party is looking at this as part of a broader national strategy. I don’t really think that they think Brown can win here.”

Michael Dennehy, a New Hampshire-based GOP strategist, agreed that Mrs. Shaheen is a “big favorite,” but said that Mr. Brown’s campaigns in Massachusetts show he could capitalize if the national political environment continues to deteriorate for Democrats, putting New Hampshire in play.

“What it comes down to is lightning has to strike. Everything has to line up perfectly for him to be able to win,” Mr. Dennehy said.

But he did agree that Mr. Brown’s candidacy will absorb Democratic money that would have been spent elsewhere — as much as $6 million in the expensive Boston television market, which reaches many New Hampshire voters.

New Hampshire political observers say that Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte has been among those lobbying for Mr. Brown to enter the race, in part because the freshman lawmaker wants the party to be prepared for her 2016 re-election contest, where she could end up facing New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat.

“If Shaheen wins, she is going to be free to work against Kelly in the race,” a GOP insider said. “Kelly wants to bolster the GOP effort in preparation for her campaign.”

For now, the potential Brown candidacy has already helped reshape the fight for the Senate in November.

In her latest breakdown of the 2014 races, Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report said Wednesday that New Hampshire, Colorado and Iowa — all seats occupied by Democrats — have moved from likely holds to only “leaning” toward Democrats.

Ms. Duffy also said that the races for the seats currently held by Democrats in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, as well as the contests in Michigan and North Carolina are toss-ups.

“We tend to think that the battle for the majority is a jump ball. The next few months will tell us on which side of 50-50 that ball drops,” she said.

Even before Mr. Brown officially announced the formation of an exploratory committee for the New Hampshire race, American Crossroads, the Republican superPAC founded with the help of Karl Rove, said it would pour $600,000 into a television ad knocking Mrs. Shaheen for casting the “deciding vote on Obamacare,” which the Senate approved on a party-line 60-39 vote on Christmas Eve in 2009.

“I’ve been involved in Senate races for more than two decades and I have not seen a field of play grow so rapidly since 1980,” said Steven Law, CEO and president of American Crossroads. “Scott Brown has the potential to be the 52nd or 53rd Republican senator elected in 2014. He knows the issues, is aligned with the state, can raise money and is one of the best recruits of the cycle.”

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