The news that former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown (R) sold his house in the Bay State and plans to move to New Hampshire seems a pretty clear signal he is serious about challenging Granite State Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) in 2014. To gauge Brown's chances, we reached out to WMUR's James Pindell, a one-man journalistic wrecking crew in the state. Our conversation with James -- conducted via e-mail -- is below, lightly edited.
FIX: Scott Brown just sold his house in Massachusetts and is moving officially to New Hampshire. This means only one thing, right?
James Pindell: Or two. 1. He is running for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire. 2. Like other humans he is looking looking to downsize his house now that his daughters are out. He could be moving to New Hampshire since he already owns a home there. Not only does he get a half-million in his pocket for selling his Massachusetts place, but he also saves 5.25 percent in state income tax, since New Hampshire doesn't have one.
But I doubt we would be having an esteemed Fix conversation about Mitt Romney, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper or DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz if they were to suddenly move into their New Hampshire vacations homes permanently. Brown knows the news of his move would get attention on the Senate race and he has been trying to get attention all year.
FIX: Let's say he runs for the Senate. Rank these issues for him from biggest to smallest (and explain why): Carpetbagger, his voting record in the Senate, name ID, money/fundraising.
James: 1. Voting record and political positions: There is already a planned protest from gun-rights activists at his NHGOP speech on Thursday. They will be shouting over those from the left who think he is a "Wall Street crony."
2. The carpetbagging thing is a problem, but you'd be hard pressed to find a state where it matters less. Something like 60 percent (and growing) of the state's residents are from somewhere else. The last four governors were from another state -- the last two from Massachusetts. With carpetbagging Bob Smith in the race also, Brown wouldn't bear the burden alone. There is something of a fun twist to this question in this race. Senator Jeanne Shaheen was born in Missouri and raised in Pennsylvania and now sits at the Daniel Webster desk on the Senate floor. Webster was a New Hampshire native, who represented Massachusetts in the Senate.
Further remember the geography here. New England is not like the rest of the country. When it's not rush-hour, a person can drive from downtown Boston to the New Hampshire border in 30 minutes. The state has the second-highest amount of commuters to another state per capita, and many of them to go work in Massachusetts. The two states are linked economically and culturally, just not politically.
3. He is the best-known and has the most ability to raise money of any of the candidates. Yes, I am willing to bet five whole dollars he is better known than Smith, who occupied the seat for two terms, but was last elected in 1996. Brown has already proven he can raise more money than anyone ever has in N.H.
FIX: What's the state of the New Hampshire Republican party? The two potential candidates are Brown and Bob Smith who is moving back from Florida(!) to run. No one who lives in the state was ready to run?
James: The Republican Party is a well-oiled machine compared to where we were two years ago when there was a successful coup against the tea party-minded chairman, but it is still far from perfect. Here's what's going on: We have four major races next year, and all have Democratic incumbents (two congressional seats, Senate and governor). Everyone seems to agree that the congressional incumbents are the easiest to beat and there are now GOP primaries in both races. Sen. Shaheen and Gov. Maggie Hassan appear tougher to beat, so logically fewer people are stepping up. For the record there are two others running who are New Hampshire residents! They are former state senator Jim Rubens and conservative activist Karen Testerman, but few are seeing them as viable. There are also a few who have filed paperwork, but are not campaigning from what I can tell.
FIX: Jeanne Shaheen has been governor and now a senator in New Hampshire. In a sentence, what do people in New Hampshire think of her? And might they fire her?
James: They don't think about her and that is by design. She is a generic Democrat. She can lose this race in 2014 just like she did in 2002 if the environment is bad enough. But without someone like Brown in the race, she is building up her firewall.