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In N.H., GOP weary of waiting for Scott Brown

Scott Brown (left) moved to Rye, N.H., a year after losing his US Senate seat. Many suspected he would seek office there.

Matt Stone/pool

Scott Brown (left) moved to Rye, N.H., a year after losing his US Senate seat. Many suspected he would seek office there.

Republicans across New Hampshire have a message for Scott Brown: if he’s running for US Senate, he should get his truck in gear.

More than a month after he moved to the state, a wide range of Republicans, from local activists to statewide party veterans, expressed a growing weariness with Brown’s coy flirtation with a potential contest against Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen.

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“I think it’s time. Otherwise it begins to feel like you’re toying with the people of the state,” said Juliana Bergeron, the Republican National Committeewoman for New Hampshire.

The consensus among more than a dozen plugged-in Republicans across the state this week was that Brown, in order to mount a serious campaign, must begin in earnest the long process of calling activists and elected officials, showing up at local events, and embracing retail politics in a state where votes are won in person.

“We don’t take you seriously until you have coffee in all of our living rooms,” said Kerry Marsh, the chairwoman of Concord Republican City Committee. “If he is going to do this, he needs to start now.”

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Brown moved to his new hometown of Rye in December. Toward the end of 2013, it seemed that Brown was everywhere in New Hampshire — making speeches, raising money for other Republicans, even registering to vote. But since 2014 dawned, Brown’s in-state profile has been nearly invisible, activists say.

That lack of visibility has extended the will-he-or-won’t-he parlor game, and has led to a growing exasperation, rendered all the more acute among Republicans because they see a real path to victory for him.

Indeed many Republicans believe Brown, who lost his Massachusetts Senate seat to Democrat Elizabeth Warren in 2012, is the only potential GOP candidate in a position to genuinely threaten Shaheen’s reelection.

A new poll from Purple Strategies, a bipartisan public affairs firm, found Brown tied with Shaheen, 44 percent to 44 percent, in a hypothetical matchup.

The poll of 1,052 likely New Hampshire voters was conducted Jan. 21 through Jan. 23.

That survey follows a separate poll conducted this month by Public Policy Polling that found Shaheen leading Brown 46 percent to 43 percent.

Despite those promising numbers, Republicans caution that a primary or general election win is no sure thing and that Brown would need to do the grueling work of introducing himself, town by town, to his new home state. Politics in New Hampshire, they say, must be conducted face to face over many months, from VFW halls in the shadow of the White Mountains to Concord coffee shops.

“Other than on television, I have not seen Scott Brown,” said Nashua Republican activist Timothy Twombly, a former state representative who frequents many GOP events in New Hampshire. Brown serves as a paid Fox News contributor.

By contrast, Twombly said, two of the declared Republican candidates for Senate, Jim Rubens, a former state senator, and conservative activist Karen Testerman, “are at all the events I go to.”

State Representative Gene Chandler, a Republican and a former speaker of the House who is from Bartlett, a small town near Mount Washington, said he thought Brown would be a good candidate and a credible threat to Shaheen, who was first elected to the Senate in 2008.

But he, too, said Brown must get moving.

“Some people are getting a little nervous,” said Chandler. “Nervous that he isn’t making a decision.”

“But pretty soon,” Chandler said, “if he’s going to do something, he needs to kick in gear.”

And that, Republicans said, means showing up at events all over the state, even if Brown holds off on an official declaration until March or April. The filing deadline to get on the primary ballot is in June.

Brown, who works as a lawyer at the Boston office of the law firm Nixon Peabody LLP, did not return multiple voice mails and e-mails seeking comment about his political intentions.

Several current and former elected officials in New Hampshire — often the first points of contact for would-be candidates — said this week that it had been some time since they had even spoken to Brown.

Former US representative Charlie Bass, a Republican, said he had not “heard a word from Scott Brown since the leaves were on the trees.”

Ken Merrifield, the mayor of Franklin, a small city north of Concord, said Monday that Brown had not been in contact with him, as did Ted Gatsas, the Republican mayor of Manchester. Gatsas said he has been in regular touch with Shaheen, speaking with her as part of his job as mayor.

Outside political groups have already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads knocking Shaheen, evidence that well-funded interests might be there to back Brown if he is the GOP nominee. A smaller ad campaign targeting Brown also ran on television in recent weeks.

But even the advantages of strong polls and robust outside support do not offer Brown, or any candidate, unlimited time to make a decision.

“Assets in politics are not irrevocable,” said former New Hampshire attorney general Thomas D. Rath, a Republican who remains deeply involved state politics. “They’ve got to be used, they’ve got to be exercised, they’ve got be engaged.”

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.
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