James Pindell, political director for WMUR-TV, gave us some fascinating insights into New Hampshire on the Political Wire podcast, including a special focus on former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown's newly announced U.S. Senate campaign in the Granite State.
Here are five takeaways from the conversation:
1. Scott Brown's candidacy shouldn't have even happened. When Brown dropped hints late last year that he wouldn't rule out a Senate run in New Hampshire, it was entirely possible that he wasn't seriously considering it. "Republicans already had a whole host of candidates by the time he announced that," Pindell said. A couple of former New Hampshire congressmen and even former GOP Sen. John Sununu had hinted they might run. Eventually, "those folks one by one said they weren't going to run," Pindell said. That opened the door to Brown, who would go on a listening tour and eventually decide to make good on his previous flirtations with a Senate candidacy. "I never thought this was going to happen," Pindell said.
2. Carpetbagging charges against Brown will matter, but less than you might think. The fact that the former U.S. senator from Massachusetts isn't from New Hampshire has generated a lot of media attention and charges of carpetbagging. "It's something he's going to have to answer for, and it's a legitimate question that comes up all the time, and frankly Scott Brown has not been answering it very well," Pindell said. Still, this issue may not be as important in a state like New Hampshire, which is closely linked economically, politically and culturally with its neighbor Massachusetts. Not only do a lot of Granite State residents commute to the Bay State for work or formerly lived in Massachusetts. But also none of the current Senate candidates in New Hampshire are originally from there, he said. So will carpetbagging matter? "The bottom line is this: It's hard to find a state where this carpetbagging issue would matter less."
3. The tea party is still there, but its energy is fading. Back during the tea party's ascendancy in President Obama's first term, tea party meetings were getting hundreds of attendees, whereas local meetings of Republicans were sparsely attended. Nowadays, these tea party meetings aren't happening that often. Also, once-common tea party rallies are non-existent, Pindell said. "We actually are beyond the tea party dynamic," he said. "They have really dissipated. They've either dropped out of the process, or they've gone into the fold as Republicans."
4. This race could be the most expensive in New Hampshire history. And it's not just because of Brown's political rock-star status. It's because something far greater is at stake politically: control of the U.S. Senate. Republicans' road to Senate control gets easier if they can expand their map beyond the most vulnerable Democratic-held seats — such as Montana, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Arkansas — into states like Colorado and New Hampshire, where Democratic incumbents are in better shape. It's easy to see why outside groups and the parties may want to pour lots of money into the Granite State. "I don't think Senate control is going to be that big of a factor in terms of what these candidates are talking about," Pindell said of the New Hampshire U.S. Senate race. "But it will be one big factor as to why this could be the most expensive race in New Hampshire history."
5. Brown's candidacy has important implications for 2016. That's because it provides a perfect excuse for potential 2016 presidential candidates to visit this first-in-the-nation primary state. Right now, GOP 2016 hopefuls can't visit New Hampshire without arousing suspicion about their intentions. And it's not like they can come clean on their presidential intentions anyway. "They can't legally say that they're running for president, or that kicks in a whole bunch of FEC laws," Pindell said. "They can't say they really, really want to run, because that may mess them up on their own domestic politics." The Brown U.S. Senate campaign gives a perfect opening for 2016 hopefuls to "come up and campaign for their friend Scott Brown" while quietly testing the waters for a presidential run, Pindell said.
Listen to the whole interview here: