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Scott Brown looks to test 2014 waters

The Morning Line

He’s already taken the Penguin Plunge. Now it appears Scott Brown is ready to ride the 2014 wave.

The Associated Press reports the former Republican senator from Massachusetts is expected to announce as early as Friday that he will form an exploratory committee to challenge New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

Brown’s stunning victory in the January 2010 Massachusetts special election to replace the late Sen. Edward Kennedy foreshadowed troubles to come for congressional Democrats in that year’s midterm elections, driven in large part by the backlash to President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. With his potential Granite State run this year, Brown would once again be looking to capitalize on voter discontent with the plan.

The Affordable Care Act took center stage in this week’s special election in Florida, where the winner, Republican David Jolly, hammered Democrat Alex Sink for her support of the law. Jolly’s victory bolstered the GOP’s strategy to focus on the health care law and has raised hopes about the party’s chances of expanding their majority in the House and taking back control of the Senate from Democrats.

Senate Democrats must defend seven seats in states that the president lost in the 2012 campaign, with six of those defeats coming by double-digit margins. New Hampshire is not on that list, as the president bested Romney there by nearly six percentage points. But if Republicans were able to put the Granite State in play it would signal a surge in the party’s direction.

Recent polling gives Shaheen an early advantage, with a Suffolk University survey showing her up 13 points on Brown, 52 percent to 39 percent. That comes even as the poll has the president’s approval rating at 40 percent, and 52 percent of New Hampshire voters saying they believed the health care law was “generally bad” for the state.

Brown also faces the challenge of running against an established New Hampshire political brand while he just recently relocated to the state from neighboring Massachusetts. In the Suffolk poll 11 percent of respondents offered the term “carpetbagger” when asked for the first word or phrase they associated with Brown’s name.

Brown is scheduled to address the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua on Friday afternoon, the latest move in his courtship of New Hampshire conservatives.

The Associated Press’ Steve Peoples details Brown’s recent outreach to Granite State Republicans:

Brown spent much of the past two weeks calling key New Hampshire Republican officials and influential GOP activists, saying he was going to run and seeking their support. At the same time, Brown’s camp has quietly begun offering paid positions to Republican operatives for a prospective New Hampshire campaign.

Several people involved in the discussions said some in the GOP establishment remain skeptical given the former Republican senator’s recent track record. The 54-year-old Brown angered Massachusetts Republicans last year after indicating he would run in the state’s special U.S. Senate election, only to change his mind late in the process.

The New Hampshire Union Leader’s John DiStaso, meanwhile, notes that Brown has doled out $29,000 to various GOP committees in advance of his appearance Friday:

We’ve learned Brown has issued contributions from his The People’s Seat PAC of $5,000 to the state party, $5,000 to the state Senate Republican PAC, $5,000 to the House Republican PAC, $1,000 to each of the 10 county committees and $1,000 each to the Manchester, Nashua and Concord Republican committees.

This is in addition to $15,000 Brown donated to the NHGOP in 2013 and 2014.

For Republicans, Brown’s possible entry into the New Hampshire Senate contest would give the party a high-profile candidate in a state that currently favors Democrats. Whether his candidacy would genuinely expand the map for Republicans is an open question, but at the very least it might force Democrats to move additional resources into the Granite State to help protect Shaheen; money that could be used to help red state Democrats in Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska.

A note to our readers: The Morning Line will take a brief hiatus next week and return Tuesday, March 25. We’ll be joined then by the new head of the NewsHour’s politics team, Domenico Montanaro.


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  • Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announced Wednesday she would not seek a third term, putting to rest speculation she would challenge a provision in the state’s constitution that prohibits officeholders from serving more than two terms. Brewer replaced former Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, who left office in 2009 to join the Obama administration. The Republican was then elected to a full term in 2010.

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  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.


Ruth Tam contributed to this report.

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