NASHUA, N.H. — Ending months of speculation, former Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts said today that he will begin building a campaign for US Senate in New Hampshire and touring the state to introduce himself to voters.
His announcement at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference marked a pivotal turning point in a political flirtation that had begun to grate on Republicans in the state, who were eager for Brown to declare his intentions.
Brown said to applause that he would launch an exploratory committee, a step that allows him to beginning raising money and hiring staff as he prepares to challenge Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat.
“We look forward to meeting you and to this great journey ahead,” Brown said.
A long-time resident of Wrentham, Mass., Brown recently moved to his summer home in Rye, N.H., and registered to vote there.
In his speech, he sought to rebut any suggestion that he is carpetbagging into a new state. He recalled that his parents were living in Portsmouth when he was born and that he spent summers with his grandparents exploring the rocky coast in Rye, and visiting Hampton Beach and Prescott Park in Portsmouth.
“I still get emotional,” he said.
Brown also trotted out lines that would be familiar to Massachusetts voters who watched his upset victory against Democrat Martha Coakley in 2010. As in that race, Brown pointed proudly to his truck, noting that it had 300,000 miles on it, and lambasted the federal Affordable Care Act.
“A big political wave is about to break in America and the Obamacare Democrats are on the wrong side of that wave,” Brown said.
Brown’s speech capped a whirlwind day that made clear he was gunning again for the Senate. Earlier in the day, Fox News terminated its contract with the former senator, saying he had notified the network that he intended to launch a Senate campaign. Brown had been a paid contributor on Fox News since early 2013.
American Crossroads, the super PAC affiliated with Karl Rove, also said today that it would launch $600,000 worth of attack ads against Shaheen starting Tuesday. The bombardment is expected to last a week.
In addition, Brown began the day by canceling his planned trip to Iowa next month, giving up potential White House ambitions.
“He texted me his morning by 6 a.m., saying he’s going to run for the United States Senate in New Hampshire and won’t be able to come to Iowa,” said Tracee Knapp, a GOP activist in Ringgold County, Iowa, who had invited Brown to speak to a party gathering there on April 3.
“We’re pretty disappointed. We’re trying to scramble to get someone else to speak.”
Brown joins three other New Hampshire Republicans who are running for US Senate: former US senator Bob Smith, former state senator Jim Rubens, and conservative activist Karen Testerman.
A Boston Herald/Suffolk University poll released last week found Brown would be the strongest challenger against Shaheen, but still trails her 52 percent to 39 percent, with 9 percent undecided.
Matt Mowers, executive director of the New Hampshire GOP, argued that Brown would not be an automatic favorite in the Republican primary,
“In New Hampshire, you have to earn your primary,” Mowers said. “No matter where you start in the polls, every single voter wants you to earn it.”
Brown’s success or failure will hinge on his ground game, not his celebrity, Mowers said.
“New Hampshire is a traditional retail politics state,” he said. “The voters here want to hear you talk two or three times, not just once. People are much more interested in where you stand on issues and how you’ll help them.”
Mowers said New Hampshire Republicans believe Shaheen’s support of the Affordable Care Act makes her vulnerable.
The Herald/Suffolk poll showed the law is unpopular in New Hampshire, with 37 percent saying it is “generally good” for the state, and 52 percent declaring it generally bad.
“Jeanne Shaheen is scared,” Mowers said.