On Thursday, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown will officially get back to politics as he sets the stage for a comeback to the U.S. Senate.
The Republican's entrance into the New Hampshire race will transform the contest into one of the most high-profile on the midterm map. The race is expected to be expensive, explosive and hard-fought, but Brown’s got a series of obstacles to overcome if it's going to be close. If he manages to win the Republican primary – which is not a guarantee as he faces off against former Sen. Bob Smith and former state Sen. Jim Rubens – he’ll still have a long way to go.
Here are three things Brown will have to do to win on Election Day in 2014 and prove it's possible to be the carpetbagging comeback kid.
1. Show off his Granite State ties: Brown’s first order of business in New Hampshire is to convince voters in the state that he is not an opportunistic outsider looking to resurrect his political career, but a public servant looking to go where service calls. To do that, he has to convince the GOP's elders and donors he deserves the job.
It was less than two years ago that Brown was casting votes as the senator from Massachusetts. And while it’s not uncommon for a politician to run outside his or her home state (see: Hillary Clinton, Robert Kennedy), Brown’s not just a man who relocated to a state to run for Senate: He's a former senator from Massachusetts who ran for re-election, lost and then drove across the state line for a second chance.
A Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll in March summed it up when it asked voters to identify words they most associated with Brown. “Carpetbagger” was one of the terms most often cited. Brown knows he is vulnerable on the charge and has worked to boost his Granite State ties. The first photo posted on his campaign's Instagram account shows a smiling toddler playing with a wooden cart on the floor. The black-and-white photo is dated from more than 50 years ago, September 1960.
“At my first house on Islington Street in Portsmouth,” the caption reads. “I spend summers here as a kid and it feels great to be back.”
"If this race is about where Scott Brown has lived all his life, he is going to lose," says Mike Dennehy, a Republican strategist in New Hampshire.
2. Make the race about Barack Obama, not Jeanne Shaheen: Because of a shared media market and national clout, Brown’s got name recognition and the ability to raise major cash. Yet, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen won’t be toppled as easily as some of her fellow Democrats who face challenges in more conservative states this fall. She’s got $3.4 million in the bank, an impressive first-quarter fundraising haul and public opinion on her side. The same Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll found that the former three-term governor led Brown by more than 10 points. Some even predict she'll be harder to beat than Brown's Democratic Massachusetts competitor, Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
"Jean Shaheen is a masterful politician, where Elizabeth Warren was simply a liberal Democratic candidate in a liberal Democratic state," Dennehy says.
In order to win, Dennehy says Brown must bring his A-game and make the race about President Barack Obama, not Shaheen. When he does attack her, it will have to be about her support for the president’s Affordable Care Act, which remains unpopular nationwide.
"If [Brown] does his job right, he would be able to tie Barack Obama around Jeanne Shaheen’s neck," Dennehey says.
But even that could prove tricky. Obamacare isn’t popular in the state, even if the issue does not appear to be the No. 1 thing on the minds of voters in New Hampshire. It is among the top three, however, up there with the economy and taxes, according to the Suffolk/Herald survey.[MORE: 5 Days of 2016 Action]
3. Defy the political odds: New Hampshire isn’t solidly Democratic, but in the last few years, it has trended more and more blue. In 2012, Obama was able to beat Republican Mitt Romney by more than 5 points in New Hampshire despite the former Massachusetts governor’s ties to the state.
Yet New Hampshire is inclined to an occasional gust of GOP wind, especially in a midterm. In 2010, Republicans won big in the state, capturing a majority in the state legislature and catapulting Sen. Kelly Ayotte to Washington, D.C. The GOP victories came at a very specific political moment: Ayotte was able to capitalize on an endorsement by the still-popular Sarah Palin and spark enthusiasm among the state’s independent and libertarian base. If Brown is looking to recreate the GOP’s midterm success from 2010, it could be possible as the president's approval rating has been sinking.
“It is a slightly Democratic state, but this will be a good Republican year," says Andrew Smith, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire. "If you ever wanted to run as a Republican, this would be the year to do it.”
Corrected on April 10, 2014: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the top three issues for voters in New Hampshire.