Why Scott Brown Running in N.H. Is a Really, Really Bad Idea

by Stuart Rothenberg April 8, 2013 · 9:25 AM EDT

Multiple media outlets are reporting that former Massachusetts Sen. Scott P. Brown, a Republican, hasn’t ruled out a bid for the Senate next year in New Hampshire.

I haven’t ruled out lots of things in my life that I don’t intend to do and am pretty sure I won’t do, and if that’s all that Brown means, fine.

But if Brown is serious about running for the Republican nomination in the Granite State, he needs to splash some cold water on his face, swallow a stiff drink and embrace the obvious: It’s a stupid idea.

Former senators who were defeated for re-election can’t simply go to another state — even if they have property there and have paid taxes there — and get elected to the Senate, especially if the state is politically competitive.

Former New Hampshire Sen. Robert C. Smith, for example, briefly tried running for Senate in Florida in 2004, two years after he was defeated in the Granite State GOP primary by John E. Sununu. He dropped out after finding that nobody in Florida knew who he was or cared.

For many voters, Brown would appear to be nothing more than “seat shopping” if he were to run in New Hampshire. He’d look like a perfect example of a personally ambitious politician who didn’t care who he represented as long as he had an office on Capitol Hill and the title of U.S. senator.

And coming after Republicans mocked Ashley Judd, who lives in Tennessee but grew up in Kentucky, for publicly mulling a run for the Senate from her home state, those same Republicans would look hypocritical if they backed Brown.

The Brown argument that this would be different because he has had property in the state and paid taxes there is a loser. He represented the people of Massachusetts in the Senate and he’d look like someone without principles — a carpetbagger who was more interested in his own career than in the country’s future — if he tried to move on to New Hampshire. After all, if he wants to be in the Senate, why didn’t he run in this year’s special election in Massachusetts?

Some Republicans are already asking, “What about Hillary Rodham Clinton?” To that they could add Bobby Kennedy.

But New York and New Hampshire are so different that the Clinton and Kennedy cases are irrelevant.

New York, with just more than 19 million residents, wasn’t and isn’t a swing state the way New Hampshire, with its 1.3 million residents, is. And while folks in New York City don’t know their neighbors (or want to know them), folks in New Hampshire are less impressed by celebrities and more interested in their neighbors.

Once Clinton was nominated, her celebrity, money and, most importantly, her party label gave her a huge advantage. On the other hand, Brown’s problems would only start if he got the GOP nomination in the Granite State. Local Republicans remain skeptical that Brown will run, per CQ Roll Call’s Kyle Trygstad and Abby Livingston.

In the general election, he would need support from casual voters and political independents, many of whom would wonder about his character and motives. To them, the idea of running for the same office in two states inherently sounds fishy.

If the National Republican Senatorial Committee embraces a Brown bid — indeed, if the folks at the committee don’t indicate, at least privately, that it’s a dumb idea — they are saying something pretty damning about the New Hampshire GOP.

They are saying that Granite State Republicans need to go out of state to find a strong candidate to take on Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. And that would be pretty pathetic in a state that is still very competitive.