“You mean Scott, right?”
That was the reaction of one New Hampshire Republican when asked about the news, first reported by WMUR, that former Boston TV personality and wife of one-time U.S. Senator Scott Brown, was exploring a run in the First Congressional District GOP primary.
No, it’s Gail Huff Brown, who has decades of media experience, knows firsthand what it takes to survive a political campaign and, perhaps most significantly, is married to a political celebrity and veteran of the Trump administration.
In a Republican primary, where more than 85 percent of voters think Donald Trump was a good president and 65 percent want him to run again, that could be enough.
Granite State Republican strategists and activists were reluctant to go on the record at this early point in the race, but several confirmed to NHJournal that Scott is making it clear Gail is very close to “yes,” and that he believes Trump will be on board.
“Word is out Trump is going to clear the field for her,” one GOP insider said.
Scott Brown’s Trump connections are clear enough. He was the first U.S. senator, current or former, to formally endorse Trump in 2016, just a week before the New Hampshire primary. He served as the Trump administration’s ambassador to New Zealand, too.
When Brown announced his resignation from his post as dean of New England Law-Boston in order to return to partisan politics, the assumption among many in NHGOP circles was that he was thinking of jumping into the ring. Why else restart his “Strong Country for Today and Tomorrow (SCOTT) PAC, if not to run for either Congress or, if Gov. Chris Sununu chooses not to seek re-election, governor?
“In the months ahead, I look forward to re-engaging in the political arena in support of candidates and causes who share my vision of rebuilding the Republican Party,” Brown wrote to the law school.
It appears that re-engagement will be to help Gail win a GOP primary. Which may not be easy.
Multiple sources tell NHJournal Scott Brown has been on the phone for days, making the case for Gail. The common refrain is that the race “needs an adult.” WMUR reports a source making the same pitch. “She is being encouraged to run by people who are looking for an adult in the room – an adult in the race – in terms of life experience.”
While the average age of the other announced candidates is under 30, it’s unlikely 2020 GOP nominee Matt Mowers or former Trump While House comms pro Karoline Leavitt are going to roll over for a first-time candidate with no conservative credentials.
And “conservative” is the key word. The New Hampshire Journal NH-01 poll of Republican voters earlier this month found an electorate that was strongly conservative. In addition to their overwhelming support for Trump, their top issues are border security and the Second Amendment. By a two-to-one margin, they say it’s more important for a candidate to support their conservative values than to have the best chance of beating the Democrats.
In that poll, Matt Mowers pulled 43 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire Journal NH-01 poll earlier this month — no Browns were included among the candidates tested. However, in a theoretical race for governor including former U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut, and Senate President Chuck Morse, Brown came in second with 13 percent, behind Ayotte’s 46 percent.
Is that an electorate that’s prepared to back Gail Huff Brown? Based on their issues matrix, they might struggle to support Scott Brown, a pro-abortion, pro-assault-rifle-ban moderate.
If Gail has Trump on her side, however, that may be enough. And sources close to the Browns say they think Trump is on board. Doubters note Scott has taken some high-profile swipes as his old boss — saying in May that Trump “absolutely bears” some responsibility for the January 6 riot at the Capitol, for example — and nothing is ever guaranteed with Trump.
And many Republican insiders say they expect the field to expand even more, particularly once the new, GOP-friendly lines have been drawn.
“Our primary is going to make the Democrats’ in 2018 [primary] look like a game of solitaire,” one GOP source said. There were 11 candidates in the Democrats’ NH-01 primary that year.
With the GOP primary still more than a year away, and the field far from set, it’s too early to make any meaningful predictions.
“It’s politics — anything can happen,” one longtime GOP strategist told NHJournal. “Like Scott Brown winning a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts.”