A surprising news story broke late last week that indicated former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown (R) is contemplating a political comeback strategy before a different electorate — this time in neighboring New Hampshire.
Despite brandishing some of the stronger approval ratings of any senator standing for re-election in 2012, Brown lost his seat to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) by a substantial seven percentage point margin. When Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) was appointed Secretary of State earlier this year, political observers and activists from both parties were closing watching whether Brown would run in the upcoming April/June 2013 replacement special Senate election. Since he won the seat in 2010 via special election after veteran Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) passed away, it was natural to question whether or not Brown would try again, particularly after he made post-defeat comments that refused to close the door about seeking public office in the future.
The fact that Brown ultimately decided not to run led to common speculation that he would seek what will be an open governor’s office in 2014. Though Republicans have a poor record of winning federal office in Massachusetts, the party has won four of the last six gubernatorial campaigns. But, apparently such a race is not in Brown’s present political calculations.
Rather, word is coming that he is seriously considering moving to New Hampshire and challenging first-term senator and former governor Jeanne Shaheen (D). When queried about the possibility, Brown responded that he was actually born in Portsmouth, NH, and currently owns a second home in the state, thus suggesting that the idea is truly more than idle speculation. The Shaheen campaign quickly responded, when the senator’s husband, Bill Shaheen, quickly dispatched statewide emails alerting supporters to the possibility of an impending Brown challenge to his wife.
Though it sounds like an unusual move to say the least, there are several arguments in favor of the attempt. First, New Hampshire Republicans do not have a potential candidate stronger than Brown. His fundraising ability and national following will bring greater attention to the race, thus putting what appeared to be a safe Democratic seat in play.
Second, the New Hampshire electorate has swung more radically than any state in the country since the 2006 vote. Each party has defeated multiple incumbents and assumed the majority in both houses of the state legislature during the following eight-year period. In fact, recounting the eight US House elections held in the two New Hampshire congressional seats since 2006, inclusive, only two incumbents have won re-election versus five who have been defeated. Therefore, in a political context, anything can happen in 2014.
Third, Brown is a good ideological fit for the state and a candidate who can potentially unite the Republican voter base, a necessary factor if the party is going to have any chance of unseating Sen. Shaheen in 2014.
While it is highly unusual for a person to represent two different states in Congress, it is not unprecedented. In fact, Massachusetts and New Hampshire do have a history of sharing a representative. Daniel Webster (1782-1852) represented both New Hampshire and Massachusetts in the House of Representatives. Webster later served in the Senate (Massachusetts) and twice as Secretary of State. In a record likely never to be broken, Democratic senator James Shields (1810-1879) actually represented three states during his career: Illinois, Minnesota, and Missouri.
The following electoral synopsis illustrates the span of the Granite State’s severe political pendulum arc during the past four elections:
Gov. John Lynch (D) re-elected – 73.9%
Carol Shea-Porter (D) defeats Rep. Jeb Bradley (R) – 51.3%
Paul Hodes (D) defeats Rep. Charlie Bass (R) 52.7%
Senate: 14 (D) – 10 (R)
House: 239 (D) – 161 (R)
Gov. John Lynch (D) re-elected – 70.1%
Jeanne Shaheen (D) defeats Sen. John E. Sununu (R) – 51.6%
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) defeats former Rep. Jeb Bradley (R) – 51.7%
Rep. Paul Hodes (D) re-elected – 56.4%
Senate: 14 (D) – 10 (R)
House: 225 (D) – 175 (R)
Gov. John Lynch (D) re-elected – 52.6%
Ex-Attorney General Kelly Ayotte (R) defeats Rep. Paul Hodes (D) – 60.0%
Frank Guinta (R) defeats Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) – 54.0%
Former Rep. Charlie Bass defeats Ann McLane Kuster (D) – 48.3%
Senate: 5 (D) – 19 (R)
House: 102 (D) – 298 (R)
Maggie Hassan (D) defeats Ovide LaMontagne (R) – 54.6%
Former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) defeats Rep. Frank Guinta (R) – 49.7%
Ann McLane Kuster (D) defeats Rep. Charlie Bass (R) – 50.2%
Senate: 11 (D) – 13 (R)
House: 218 (D) – 179 (R) – 3 Vacancies