WHEN RUNNING for office, one parade blends into another. Flag Day in Quincy becomes the Fourth of July in Chelmsford: the bunting, the smiling store owners, the thumping school band. In such an atmosphere, it’s possible to believe that everyone wants the same things — good jobs, good schools, good kids. For three years, Scott Brown was as much a fixture at these kinds of events along the byways of Massachusetts as fire trucks and Boy Scouts. It was arguably his best platform as senator, showcasing his reassuring smile and telegenic family.
But now that those parades have passed him by, he’s marching up north to New Hampshire. On Monday, Bloomberg News reported that he is selling his longtime home in Wrentham, from which he ran for selectman, state representative, state senator, and US senator from Massachusetts. In most states, such an obviously opportunistic move would present an obstacle to any kind of political future. But Massachusetts and New Hampshire are paired in an interesting way. A rejection of Massachusetts-style taxation and intrusive government is an important part of the New Hampshire narrative. Alas, so too is a deep suspicion of artifice or pretense.
The qualities that made Brown appealing to Massachusetts voters — affability and a middle-of-the-road approach to governing — will play as well, or perhaps even better, in New Hampshire. But the quality that ultimately led to his defeat in 2012 — the lack of a substantial agenda, leading to concerns about the seriousness with which he engages national problems — may be even more brutally exposed in New Hampshire.
Brown clearly seems interested in running next year for the US Senate seat currently being held by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, and he would bring many skills to the race. Nonetheless, the challenges will be greater than just having to explain a change of address. Brown’s politics — moderate on social issues, fiscally conservative — should be a decent fit with New Hampshire. But given an unusual opportunity for a do-over in another state, with an arguably more receptive electorate, Brown should be bolder and more forthright in asserting his convictions. New Hampshire’s notoriously skeptical voters will know the difference between an attitude and an idea. The US Senate could use more centrist Republicans, and during his three-year tenure representing Massachusetts Brown positioned himself as such. What he’ll need to show is that he can be a leader in Congress, whichever parade he’s marching in.