Somewhere between Massachusetts and New Hampshire and between 2012 and 2014, Scott Brown went from keeping Mitt Romney at arm’s length to bringing him in for a full embrace.
In an e-mail to supporters Tuesday, topped with a picture of them smiling together, Brown wrote that Romney would formally endorse his campaign for US Senate in New Hampshire next week at an Independence Day kickoff.
“Right now, I know a lot of you feel the same way I do: Our country would be in much better shape if Governor Romney were in the White House today,” Brown wrote.
This strong show of support is a departure from the way Brown talked about Romney when he was running for reelection to the US Senate in Massachusetts in 2012. Then, Brown cautiously calibrated his support for Romney, a White House hopeful at the time.
But vying to unseat US Senator Jeanne Shaheen this year, Brown is playing up his connection to the former Massachusetts governor, something that Republicans see as potentially helpful to his bid in the Granite State.
The new tactic underscores the vastly different political climate Brown faces in this year’s election than in his unsuccessful contest against Democrat Elizabeth Warren.
Obama beat Romney by 23 percentage points in Massachusetts in 2012.
This month, a poll of likely voters in New Hampshire found that more have an unfavorable view of Obama than a favorable one and that a majority disapprove of the job he is doing. Romney, who won the Granite State’s first-in-the-
nation GOP presidential primary in 2012, remains popular among Republican primary voters, the poll found.
Brown’s embrace of Romney also reflects a change in the two-time presidential contender’s political profile, observers said.
“Romney went from being a moderate Massachusetts governor to a conservative presidential candidate and back to a moderate as a former presidential candidate, so his endorsement has a little more appeal these days in a moderate state like New Hampshire,” said Republican strategist Rob Gray. “When he was a presidential candidate and Brown was running for Senate in Massachusetts, a Romney endorsement would have been a bit toxic for Brown.”
The Romney-Brown political relationship goes back more than a decade. When Brown was a little known state representative running in a 2004 special election for state Senate, Romney campaigned with him, raised money for him, and even appeared in a television advertisement on Brown’s behalf.
Romney was also an early supporter of Brown’s during his upset 2010 special election victory over Attorney General Martha Coakley.
But in 2012, even as Brown and Romney shared political consultants, Brown was careful about how he couched his connection to the former governor, whom he endorsed in the GOP presidential primary. Rather than emphasize his links to the Republican, Brown showcased video of him with President Obama in an ad, working to burnish his bipartisan credentials.
In a CNN interview in March 2012, Brown said he supported Romney’s candidacy and trusted him on the economy, but he was careful not to align himself too closely to the man who would become the GOP standard-bearer.
“I’m going to continue to do my job and he can do his,” Brown told host Piers Morgan.
Brown struck a decidedly more effusive tone in his e-mail Tuesday.
“Governor Romney was right about so many things, whether the subject is the still-sputtering economy, an aggressive Russia moving to expand its sphere of influence, or the vacuum left in Iraq by the failure to leave behind a residual force to secure our hard-fought gains,” he wrote.
Brown’s kickoff event with Romney is set for Bittersweet Farm in Stratham, N.H., the same spot where Romney formally announced his candidacy for president in 2011.
Brown and Romney are set to rally together on July 2, just over two months before Brown faces a GOP primary. Brown’s party opponents include former US senator Bob Smith and former state senator Jim Rubens, who have worked to position themselves to Brown’s right.
Republicans unaligned in the primary battle said Romney could be helpful to Brown as he works to consolidate GOP support.
Former New Hampshire attorney general Thomas D. Rath, a GOP graybeard in the state, said Romney remained well regarded among Granite State Republicans and his endorsement of Brown would give the Senate hopeful “a stature and a gravitas that is helpful.”
New Hampshire Republican strategist Jamie Burnett said Romney’s endorsement could also send signals to big-money donors around the country that it was worthwhile to invest in Brown’s campaign.
In an e-mail, a state Democratic Party spokeswoman said Brown must be “panicking about his primary opponents” to tout the endorsement of “a defeated Massachusetts politician New Hampshire voters have already rejected.”
Romney lost New Hampshire to Obama in the 2012 election.
Whether Romney’s nod will be a boon to Brown against Shaheen — if he is his party’s nominee — remains a point of partisan debate.
“Mitt Romney still has juice in New Hampshire, especially among Republicans and independent voters,” said Neil Newhouse, who served as a pollster and adviser to both Romney and Brown in 2012. “And in a nonpresidential year election, that’s going to count for a lot.”
But Kathleen N. Sullivan, a former chairwoman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said she does not believe a Romney endorsement would move the needle for Brown in a general election.
“From a Democratic perspective,” she said with a laugh, “it’s kind of meh — or ‘whatever,’ as Scott Brown would say.”Joshua Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.