Republicans in New Hampshire say former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) is running out of time to demonstrate he’s serious about a potential 2014 challenge to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenSenate fight brews over Afghan visas Senators to Obama: Make 'timely' call on Afghan troops levels Overnight Defense: Pentagon denies troops on Syrian front lines | Senators push for more Afghan visas MORE (D).
“New Hampshire Republicans are not quite desperate, but the hour is getting late,” Fergus Cullen, former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, told The Hill.
He’s made repeated visits to New Hampshire and put his home in Wrentham, Mass., up for sale.
He also recently launched a new super-PAC in the state to help candidates in the 2014
races and contributed $10,000 to the state GOP.
The efforts have enhanced Brown’s popularity with state party activists. And the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) is also urging Brown to jump in the race.
But despite the churning rumor mill, New Hampshire Republicans say there’s been little solid evidence that Brown is ready to commit to a campaign.
“I haven’t heard from anyone who’s received a phone call from him,” Cullen said.
“People are waiting to see if he’s actually serious about [running] or not,” said Ryan Williams, the state party’s spokesman.
Indeed, GOP activists have been confused by Brown’s overtures toward Republicans in New Hampshire, where he owns a vacation home.
He has made campaign stops for low-level, underdog candidates in unwinnable races and has left the impression he fits events into his schedule as he pleases rather than according to a grand plan.
“Everything he’s done has been fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants. He’s accepted invitations without a rhyme or reason or without any clear strategy,” Cullen said.
According to a report in The Boston Globe, NRSC Chairman Jerry MoranJerry MoranSenate contradicts itself on Gitmo GOP senators propose sending ISIS fighters to Gitmo Passing the Kelsey Smith Act will help law enforcement save lives MORE (R-Kan.) and Vice Chairman Rob PortmanRob PortmanPortman focuses on heroin fight in new ads Juan Williams: Electoral map looks grim for Trump McConnell touts 'Senate squad' in Wes Anderson-style video MORE (R-Ohio) have both pressed Brown to get in the race.
“I don’t think Scott Brown is just fooling around,” Moran said.
Shaheen poses a significant challenge for the GOP, despite the party’s view that she is vulnerable.
A former governor who defeated Republican Sen. John Sununu in 2008, Shaheen already has nearly $3 million cash on hand for her reelection campaign. A Public Policy Polling survey in September found her with a 51 percent approval rating.
The two current Republican contenders, former state Sen. Jim Rubens and conservative activist Karen Testerman, aren’t considered top-tier candidates.
And two top Republican prospects for the race — state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley and former Rep. Charlie Bass — have decided against running.
Brown could be the GOP’s last best hope. He’d enter the Republican primary with strong name recognition and easy access to cash. The PPP survey found Brown trailing Shaheen by 4 percentage points in a hypothetical race.
One national Democrat said the party “would take Scott Brown seriously.”
One New Hampshire Republican operative said Brown has built strong relationships with party activists with his repeated visits.
“Being receptive and responsive is kind of the New Hampshire way, and I think people like him doing that up here,” the operative said.
But with less than a year until Election Day, impatience is growing.
The conservative New Hampshire Union-Leader last month urged Brown to “stop flirting with” the state.
“Despite the curious way he’s going about this, most people — including me — continue to be pretty interested in Scott Brown,” Cullen said.
“It is time, though, if he were serious about it, to kind of get serious about it and start running.”