(CNN) - Former Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts took his first concrete steps Friday towards launching a Republican challenge in neighboring New Hampshire against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who is up for re-election this year.
Brown announced at a speech at a major GOP conference in New Hampshire that he's launching an exploratory committee, which allows him to hire staff and raise money for a Senate run.
"I am announcing that I have formed an exploratory committee to prepare a campaign for the United States Senate in New Hampshire," said Brown. "Starting tomorrow morning, and for the next several weeks, Gail (Brown's wife) and I will be traveling around the state to introduce ourselves, to ask questions, to speak with everyone of every background – Republicans, independents and Democrats alike – and above all to listen to them and learn of all of your concerns."
Brown, who's been flirting with a Senate run in the Granite State for months, made his comments Friday afternoon at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua. The two-day confab is also drawing some potential GOP 2016 presidential contenders, such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a 2012 Republican White House candidate.
An adviser close to Brown, who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely, said that Brown on Friday morning canceled a trip he was scheduled to take to Iowa next month, where he was to headline a GOP county fundraiser.
Republican sources in New Hampshire confirmed to CNN that Brown, who recently moved to the state, spent much of the past two weeks reaching out to GOP leaders and strategists in New Hampshire, and has been quietly making early moves towards putting a campaign team together.
CNN's also confirmed that Brown cut nearly $30,000 in checks to a group of GOP state committees, and that following his speech, he will sit down for dinner with some leading state Republicans. The dinner was first reported by WMUR's James Pindell.
Speaking Friday morning to reporters gathered outside his home in Rye, New Hampshire, Brown said "I've been in New Hampshire for decades. We have long and strong ties here and this is our house and we're happy to be here. Love Massachusetts, miss it very much, but you know, we're in a changing phase of our lives"
Friday afternoon, Fox News Channel ended it's contract with Brown, who served as a paid on-air contributor.
"Scott Brown’s contributor agreement was officially terminated today once he notified FOX News of his intention to form an exploratory committee to run for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire," said FOX News Executive Vice President Bill Shine, in a statement.
Brown also tweeted about leaving FNC, saying "I’ve enjoyed being a part of the Fox family. Their analysis & insight has helped hold politicians accountable for their actions.....especially on ObamaCare."
State of Play
If Brown ends up launching a Senate bid and wins the party's September primary, it should expand the map for Republicans. Democrats hold a 55-45 majority in the Senate (53 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the party), but are defending 21 of the 36 seats up in November, with half of those Democratic-held seats in red or purple states.
The GOP has extremely strong Senate pickup possibilities in South Dakota and West Virginia, and has a good chance of capturing Democratic-held seats in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana and North Carolina, all considered Republican-friendly states. If Brown runs, it would give Republicans a fighting chance to try and win Democratic held seats in four tossup states: New Hampshire, Colorado, Iowa and Michigan.
As of now, the only states where Democrats can realistically go on the offense are Georgia and Kentucky.
Brown has been critical of Shaheen over her support for the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. He said on Friday that "a big political wave is about to break in America and Obamacare Democrats are on the wrong side of that wave."
Brown's announcement comes just three days after the GOP's victory over the Democrats in a special congressional election in Florida, where Obamacare was a key issue. (That same day the Republican candidate in a contest for New Hampshire's Executive Council also won, in somewhat of a surprise.)
While some GOP surveys suggest a Brown-Shaheen race would be competitive, the most recent public polling last week from Suffolk University indicated Shaheen with a 52%-39% lead.
CNN confirmed Friday that the pro-GOP American Crossroads will go up with a TV commercial statewide for a week starting Tuesday that attacks Shaheen. Politico was first to report on the Crossroads spot.
Meanwhile, when reports started flying Thursday evening that Brown would announce an exploratory committee, New Hampshire Democrats were quick to attack him.
"Scott Brown is for Scott Brown and the powerful interests that back him, not New Hampshire," said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Communications Director Harrell Kirstein, in a statement. "New Hampshire isn't going to let Scott Brown and his big oil buddies like the Koch Brothers buy themselves a Senate seat."
From state house to Senate
In January 2010, the then little-known Republican state senator in Massachusetts pulled an upset in a special election to serve the final three years of the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy's term.
Brown lost his 2012 re-election bid to Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren.
Since leaving Capitol Hill, Brown took the on-air contributor gig at Fox News, served as a colonel in the Army National Guard's office at the Pentagon, and is an attorney at the global law firm of Nixon Peabody, which has offices in Boston.
Last year, he passed on running in a special election in Massachusetts to fill the term of John Kerry, who left the Senate to become secretary of state.
And at the time, Brown also announced that he wouldn't make a 2014 bid for an open governor's seat in the Bay State.
Brown last year made a number of speaking appearances at GOP events in the Granite State. And last fall, in another hint about a possible run, he dropped the 'MA' from his Twitter handle.
A few months later, he sold his home in the Bay State and moved his residency north to New Hampshire.
In the spotlight
Brown has been staying in the media spotlight.
He jammed on stage recently at a concert in Lynn, Massachusetts, with longtime rock group Cheap Trick, joining the band in playing "Surrender," one of its biggest hits from the 1970s.
"Hope you all enjoy this as much as I did," he said in a Facebook post, which links to the YouTube video of Brown singing and playing guitar.
The story played across New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and grabbed some national coverage as well.
This was the second high-profile jam session for Brown, who started to play guitar about year ago. In December, he rocked with his daughter, Ayla, of "American Idol" fame, and Mike Huckabee on the former Arkansas governor and 2008 GOP presidential candidate's Fox News Channel program.
A few weeks ago, Brown made the front page of the "Union Leader," New Hampshire's largest newspaper, as he stripped down to his bathing suit for the annual Penguin plunge at Hampton Beach. The event raises money for the Special Olympics.
Brown famously stripped down years before, as a Cosmopolitan centerfold, during his years as a law school student.
A brand name
Brown's well known in New England, which gives him many advantages when it comes to name recognition and fundraising. But it may also be a minus: After a couple of outside conservative groups ran TV commercials in support of Brown, Shaheen started fundraising off the threat of a Brown entry into the race.
And some outside pro-Democratic groups targeted Brown, including the Senate Majority PAC, which went up with attack ads, charging that he's a favorite of the Wall Street crowd.
A strategist in contact with Brown, who asked to remain anonymous to speak freely, said the former senator's weighing some family matters.
"Among those concerns is his mother's in declining health. Plus, he's helping to plan two weddings right now, as both of his daughters are getting married this summer," the strategist said.