Fox News cutting ties with Scott Brown as he explores N.H. Senate bid

NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown has notified executives at Fox News Channel that he intends to form an exploratory committee to enter New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate race against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a move cheered by Republicans in New Hampshire and Washington.

The cable TV network confirmed Brown’s intentions Friday in a statement explaining the decision to terminate its relationship with Brown, who signed a contract a month ago to serve as a paid political contributor.

Bill Shine, executive vice president of programming, said Brown’s paid contributor contract was terminated on Friday after he notified Fox “of his intention to form an exploratory committee to run for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire.”

Brown has declined to discuss his intentions publicly, although he is scheduled to address a Republican conference in Nashua, N.H., on Friday afternoon.

The longtime Massachusetts resident, having recently relocated to his seacoast New Hampshire vacation home, is expected to start an exploratory committee to enter the Senate race as soon as Friday. The move officially allows him to begin raising money and hiring staff.

Friday marks the first day of the two-day Northeast Republican Leadership Conference, which features prospective presidential candidates and other GOP heavyweights looking to court New Hampshire voters and put their stamp on party affairs. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a 2012 presidential candidate, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal headline Friday’s speaking program.

Brown’s interest in a Senate campaign against Shaheen, a first-term senator, may overshadow the weekend event.

Brown has begun seeking campaign staff while aggressively courting New Hampshire elected officials and key GOP activists in recent weeks. At the same time, his camp has begun offering paid positions to Republican operatives for a prospective New Hampshire campaign.

“I am extremely grateful to everyone at Fox for their friendship,” Brown wrote on Twitter Friday.

Democrats scoffed at a prospective Brown candidacy, noting that he is also considering a 2016 presidential campaign. An adviser confirmed Friday morning that Brown has canceled plans to visit Iowa next month.

Shaheen, a former governor, was widely expected to win her first re-election test in November before Brown began hinting late last year that he might cross state lines to challenge her. National Democrats already have their hands full defending more vulnerable Democratic incumbents across the country as they fight to retain their six-seat Senate majority.

While recent polls give Shaheen a solid lead in a prospective matchup, Brown’s near-universal name recognition in a state that shares a media market with Massachusetts and his national fundraising network would make him a serious contender should he enter the race.

Democrats and their allies were preparing for a worst-case scenario, having spent roughly $360,000 on television advertising against Brown in recent weeks. Conservative critics spent heavily to weaken Shaheen earlier in the year, led by the tea party ally Americans for Prosperity, which spent roughly $700,000 on television ads knocking Shaheen’s support for President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

The outside group American Crossroads, co-founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove, on Friday confirmed plans to spend $650,000 more on a new television advertising campaign against Shaheen beginning next week.

Brown shocked the political world and rose to national prominence by winning the 2010 special election to replace the late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, but he was soundly defeated in his first re-election test against Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2012.

“Karl Rove, like the Koch Brothers, thinks he can buy our Senate seat and put Scott Brown back in the Senate,” said Harrell Kirstein, spokesman for the state Democratic Party. “That’s not good for New Hampshire and people here know it.”

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AP television writer David Bauder in New York contributed to this report.

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