As Ed already predicted, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown visited us here yesterday at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire. While he’s not formally in the race to unseat Jeanne Shaheen, he was ready to announce that he’s formed his exploratory committee, effectively tossing his hat into the ring. But judging by the crowd here, despite his rather high national profile, Brown isn’t looking at a walk in the park in terms of making it through the GOP primary. Residents are a bit skeptical regarding Brown on a few points, including his somewhat dubious bona fides as a Granite State son. But during his comments yesterday, he attempted to allay those concerns.
“So much of my life played out in Massachusetts and I’m very proud and thankful for those opportunities, but a big part of it was always right here in New Hampshire,” Brown said, adding his “strong family ties” helped bring him back as a “full-time resident.”
Brown focused on his blue-collar roots and even got emotional at one point when talking about his grandparents, saying, “I think of them often these days, because so much of the time we spent together was here in New Hampshire.”
I had the chance to speak to two different New Hampshire state party officials on background about Brown last night before dinner and neither of them seemed particularly persuaded. Both agreed that Brown seemed “like a very nice man” but expressed the same opinion that he isn’t really a New Hampshire guy. One went so far as to say, “Don’t get me wrong, Scott’s a good man. But he’s no Bob Smith.” (Smith, a former Senator, is also expected to get into the primary race.
The second official I spoke with brought up a different concern. After agreeing that Brown was a great guy, she leaned in a bit and said, “He’s really not right on guns, you know.” This is an issue which the media has already noted will likely dog Brown in his quest for the nomination.
Brown came out in support of a federal assault weapons ban in late-2012, reversing his previous position that it should be left to the states. He’s already faced protests from gun-rights advocates. The protests received national and local coverage. Former senator Bob Smith (R), who is likely Brown’s main competition for the nomination and has already been hitting him, is to the right of Brown on guns.
Brown still has plenty of time to make the sale and convince Granite State residents that he’s the man for the job, but it may prove to be more of an uphill battle than he anticipated. From the admittedly small sample of party leaders and activists I’m seeing here this weekend, the best description I would assign to their attitude is curious, but skeptical. But now that he’s officially a resident of New Hampshire, voters here can probably expect to be seeing him all over the state and on their TV screens from now until the primary election.