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Scott Brown to officially announce New Hampshire Senate bid

Former Republican Senator Scott Brown appears at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire March 14, 2014.
REUTERS

CONCORD, N.H. -- Hoping to return to Washington by way of New Hampshire, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown is using a variation of the state's "Live Free or Die" motto to argue against President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law.

Brown planned to formally announce his Senate bid Thursday night. In excerpts of remarks provided by his campaign, he said the health care law forces people to "live free or log on."

"Along with our money and our health plans, for a lot of us, it feels like we're losing our liberty, too. Obamacare forces us to make a choice, live free or log on - and here in New Hampshire, we choose freedom," Brown planned to tell supporters Thursday night.

Brown's formal campaign announcement comes a month after he launched an exploratory committee and four months after he moved to his former vacation home in Rye. He faces several other Republican primary opponents hoping to defeat Democrat Jeanne Shaheen in November.

Shaheen's support for the health care overhaul law is likely to be a major issue in the campaign. When Brown announced his formation of an exploratory committee, he signaled he would make Obamacare as a prominent issue on the campaign trail.

"A big political wave is about to break in America, and the Obamacare Democrats are on the wrong side of it," he said in Nashua, N.H. on March 14. "Tens of thousands of people in New Hampshire have lost the health coverage they liked. Thousands more are paying higher premiums for coverage they don't like. The whole thing is such a fiasco that the administration keeps changing the law, without even bothering to ask Congress or ask you."

"There's only one way to get rid of Obamacare once and for all, and that is to get rid of the Obamacare Democrats who rammed it through Congress and forced it upon the American people," he added.

And earlier this week, Brown issued a press release about a recent survey of insurance brokers saying "insurance premiums are going up 90 percent in New Hampshire because of Obamacare."

He toned that down a bit in his announcement, saying "premiums are way up for a lot of people - by 90 percent, according to one survey." But only a single New Hampshire broker was included in the survey, and even if the 90 percent figure is accurate, it refers only to the premium increase for individual policy holders. Less than 7 percent of New Hampshire's insured have individual plans; the vast majority of insured residents are covered by their employers.

Brown also argues that Shaheen was the "deciding vote" to pass the health overhaul law - a label Republicans can apply to any Democrat since the bill passed with the exact number of votes necessary to avoid a GOP filibuster.

"A lot of people aren't aware of that vote to pass Obamacare. But it's important to know if we are ever going to get past Obamacare and get America moving in the right direction," Brown said. "I am running to be a true independent voice for New Hampshire - I am running to hold Senator Shaheen accountable."

New Hampshire opted not to set up its own insurance market under the health care law. Final enrollment numbers haven't been released, but the nearly 22,000 who had signed up through the federal marketplace exceeded the Obama administration's target of 19,000 for the six-month enrollment period that ended March 31. Only one insurance company is offering health plans through the marketplace, however, and it has faced criticism for creating a narrow network of providers for those buying individual plans.

Brown, who won a special election in Massachusetts in 2010 before losing his seat to Democrat Elizabeth Warren two years later, planned to make his New Hampshire announcement in Portsmouth, where he lived as a baby and where he frequently visited his grandparents growing up.

"Our campaign for the U.S. Senate begins not far from where my life began," he said.

In response to Democrats who have called him a carpetbagger, Brown has pointed out that Shaheen was born in Missouri. But Shaheen has lived in New Hampshire for more than 40 years, and served in the state Senate and three terms as governor before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008.

And Brown has had some difficult shaking the "outsider" label. When the Associated Press asked him in March about his connection to New Hampshire, Brown conceded, "Do I have the best credentials? Probably not. 'Cause, you know, whatever. But I have long and strong ties to this state."

Shaheen's campaign on Thursday announced its strongest fundraising quarter to date, saying it raised $1.54 million between Jan. 1 and March 31 and had $4.35 million cash on hand.

Brown's candidacy helps the GOP's push to claim the Senate majority, and while recent polls give Shaheen the lead, Brown's strong name recognition and national fundraising network makes him a serious contender. He faces three GOP primary challengers: former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith, former state Sen. Jim Rubens and conservative activist Karen Testerman.