Mitt Romney and Scott Brown are two different political animals with two different political goals this year, yet their fates are intertwined with two offsetting challenges.
Romney, if he is successful completing his drive for the Republican presidential nomination, must convince the broader electorate that the policy flip-flops and other machinations he engaged in to become the GOP nominee won’t continue in the White House.
Brown, by contrast, has to prove to independent and Democratic Bay State voters that the bipartisan streak he has shown in the two years since his special election win will continue, that it isn’t a gambit the Republican will abandon should he gain the security of a full, six-year US Senate term.
More plainly, Romney needs to have the American people believe that, as president, he will be the kind of decisive leader Massachusetts voters clamored to have after seeing his success in turning around the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Brown, meanwhile, has to demonstrate that he is committed to the independent views he has demonstrated since 2010 and will not recede into the partisan division he has boasted of avoiding.
This past week brought fresh examples of Romney’s challenge and Brown’s hope.
Romney attended perhaps the shortest, most stilted endorsement news conference ever when he appeared in Las Vegas to receive the backing of real estate mogul and reality television star Donald Trump.
Romney had sought Trump’s backing last year, but he secretly entered and left their New York meeting to avoid having a photo of the two men together.
Yet on Thursday, Romney and his wife, Ann, joined Trump amid the spectacle of his eponymous hotel just off the Vegas Strip to receive an endorsement that, the night before, rival Newt Gingrich apparently thought was going to him.
“There are some things that you just can’t imagine happening in your life. This is one of them,’’ said Romney. “Being in Donald Trump’s magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight.’’
The event lasted six minutes.
Last year, Trump belittled Romney’s wealth and the corporate career he says is the prime reason to elect him president, with the billionaire labeling the multimillionaire a “small businessman.’’
Romney, meanwhile, flatly rejected the “birther’’ challenges to President Obama’s citizenship fueled with great bombast by Trump.
Yet last week, with a respect he did not afford onetime rival Jon Huntsman when he endorsed Romney, the candidate arranged his daily schedule to appear with Trump. And he brought along the jewel of his personal life.
The calculation, like many others during his quest for the GOP nomination, apparently was that it is better to have Trump’s endorsement than be subjected to his potshots for the remainder of the campaign.
Yet that renewed questions about the core critics say Romney lacks. And it is a far cry from the kind of decisive leadership he displayed early in his governorship, before he started to change positions, moving rightward to try to win his party’s nomination in 2008 and again this year.
Brown, meanwhile, pulled off a rare feat last week.
The freshman senator won near-unanimous, 96 to 3 approval in the Senate for his STOCK Act, a bill that would ban members of Congress from using the insider knowledge they gain from their public positions to fatten their private investment portfolios.
On Nov. 15, Brown announced that he was filing the legislation after a “60 Minutes’’ report detailing questionable trades.
In less than three months, through hustle and promotion, Brown not only pushed his bill through his own chamber, but garnered commitments to have it passed by the House.
He even buttonholed Obama after his State of the Union speech to pressure him into having Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid bring the bill to the floor for a vote.
“I believe it’s time to listen to our constituents and remember that every seat in this room is the people’s seat,’’ he said in a Senate floor speech calling for its passage.
It was a lesson that, going forward, good policy can be great politics.