Scott Brown Has Never Liked a Carpetbagger

In past elections, he benefited from the idea that his opponent was from elsewhere. Now he's plotting a move to New Hampshire.

The first step to running for Senate in a state is to seem like a convincing citizen of that state, a fact that Scott Brown—who has made frequent use of “carpetbagger” claims in his short political career—knows well.

This week in the Scott Brown New Hampshire speculation game, the former Massachusetts Senator appears close to closing a deal on his Wrentham home and relocating more permanently to New Hampshire, where he has long had a vacation home and is currently mulling a Senate run. Brown hasn’t made a final decision, but already he has been smeared with charges of “carpetbagging,” or moving to a state simply to run for an open seat there. A Democratic opposition research firm posted video of Brown briefly mixing up “Massachusetts” with “New Hampshire” to the viral delight of his detractors. (The DNC is leveling the “politician for hire” charge via Craigslist ads, bizarrely enough.)

There is some karmic justice to this. Before Elizabeth Warren even officially launched her campaign for the Massachusetts Senate seat she now holds, the G.O.P. unleashed their opposition files on her. Chief among their charges: she is from Oklahoma. (Warren was raised there, though she had lived in Massachusetts for 17 years when she declared her candidacy.) When Brown’s top aide, Eric Fehrnstrom, was using an anonymous Twitter account @CrazyKhazei to attack Warren, he wrote, “Elizabeth Warren? C’mon, this is Massachusetts, not Oklahoma #mapoli.” (He was later outed as the man behind the Twitter handle.) The Oklahoma thing remained a frequent note among Brown’s supporters through the campaign, a way to contrast the well-liked guy from Wrentham with the elitist professor from somewhere else.

Brown showed continued commitment to the idea that Senate candidates should have strong roots in their home state when he aimed for Ed Markey. Brown hadn’t yet decided against running for the seat Markey eventually won when he asked during a radio interview, “Does he still live here?”

The thing about carpetbagging charges—like claims of flip-flopping or being soft on communism—is that they aren’t ideological or party specific. Anyone can toss them at any other candidate. When you do so, you suggest that it’s an important flaw in your opponent. That’s why, if Brown runs, he probably won’t argue that carpetbagging isn’t bad, but that he’s not engaging in it. After all, he’ll argue he has owned property and spent significant time in New Hampshire, and the state shares at least some regional spirit with Massachusetts.

But it won’t be just Democrats who say otherwise. Already, Brown is facing opposition from the conservative wing of New Hampshire’s Republican Party. And they too, will be looking for pre-fab criticism to throw his way. The fact that he’s just now selling his permanent resident in Massachusetts in December of the year before the New Hampshire election gives them ammo. Lucky for Brown, both Senate candidates he’s accused of just parachuting in for an election have ended up winning. Maybe he just figured out that voters don’t much care about a carpetbagger.