TAMPA — Senator Scott Brown, making a cameo appearance at the Republican National Convention on Thursday, said he was asked to play a bigger role at the gathering but limited his attendance to a single day because of scheduling demands — and not out of concern the convention’s conservative tone would hurt his own intense reelection fight.
“Obviously, me being here is important in that, you know, it shows that someone who’s a prochoice moderate Republican is here as part of the big tent that we have, and should have, and will continue to have with my involvement here,” he told reporters. “And while I don’t agree with everything in the platform and/or with Governor Romney, I have a lot of respect for him, and vice versa.”
Brown would not specify what expanded role he was asked to play at the convention where his fellow Massachusetts Republican, Mitt Romney, accepted their party’s presidential nomination. The two share a senior strategist, Eric Fehrnstrom, and spokeswoman Gail Gitcho worked for Brown before joining Romney as communications director.
But the senator denied trying to distance himself from the GOP’s more extreme elements as he faces a stern challenge from his Democratic opponent, Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren, in traditionally Democratic Massachusetts.
“I have my own race, and I have my own life, as you know,” he said. “There’s only so many days in the year to be a dad and a husband and a soldier and a senator and then run for reelection.”
The Brown-Warren tilt is considered one of the fiercest races for the Senate this fall, with the results potentially playing a role in whether the Democrats keep control of the upper chamber.
On Thursday, Brown accused Warren of trying to nationalize their race by linking him with Romney, who has trailed President Obama in Massachusetts.
“I know Professor Warren would like to run a national platform against Governor Romney and Paul Ryan. But she’s running against me,” the senator said.
Warren rejected the notion as she addressed reporters while touring a business in South Boston.
“I know exactly who I’m running against,” she said. “I’m running against a guy who voted against equal pay for equal work. I’m running against a guy who cosponsored a bill to block women’s access to insurance coverage for birth control. He is part of the bigger Republican economic agenda. . . . You can’t have it both ways.”
Warren will have a prominent speaking role at next week’s Democratic National Convention, reflecting her stature within the party this year.
Brown flew into Tampa from Washington, where he was serving National Guard duty this week at the Pentagon. He labeled his visit “a bucket-list thing,” having never before attended a political convention.
He had lunch at Romney’s waterfront hotel, reunited with his wife, Gail Huff, and one of their daughters, Ayla, before giving a series of radio interviews at the media center.
As Brown moved between events, he was treated like a celebrity, being asked to pose for photos and sign autographs.
Later, Brown was seen speaking with Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s chief political strategist and now a leading conservative intellect, in a hotel restaurant. The senator’s aide said it was a chance encounter.
The treatment reflected his own stature among the party faithful: He won a January 2010 special election to fill the seat long held by the late Edward M. Kennedy, a Democratic icon. His seat gave Republicans the necessary votes to filibuster Democratic initiatives.
After watching Romney’s speech, Brown was set to return to his campaign. He was due in Lowell on Friday to receive the endorsement of Mickey Ward, the boxer portrayed in the movie “The Fighter.”
“I’m honored to be here right now, looking forward to it, to be part of history is something very special,” Brown said. “To see one of our own actually come out and do something special — whether they be Democrat or Republican, it’s good for Massachusetts when one of our own rises to this level.”
Although Brown has campaigned in Massachusetts virtually every day this month, aides said he was late in coming to the convention solely because of his Guard commitment.
His late arrival made him miss the performance by his daughter Ayla, a onetime American Idol semifinalist, singing the National Anthem on Wednesday night.
Yet Brown’s lack of attendance also dovetails with his campaign’s effort to minimize his connection to the Republican Party while maximizing his bipartisan efforts and support.
The senator’s numerous television and radio ads have not mentioned his party affiliation, but they have highlighted his work with Obama and support from Bay State Democrats such as former Boston mayor Raymond L. Flynn.
Brown has also worked to distance himself from some of his party’s more controversial elements, including calling for Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri to quit his own campaign after his recent comment that the body of a woman suffering a “legitimate rape” could protect itself against an unwanted pregnancy.
Fehrnstrom, like Brown, highlighted the senator’s disagreements with Romney as he walked a careful line between serving his two bosses.
“Scott Brown served with Mitt Romney in the Legislature. They didn’t agree on every issue. There are some issues where Scott Brown voted to override Governor Romney’s vetoes, particularly with respect to social issues — and I’m thinking specifically about the governor’s stem cell veto and his veto of emergency contraceptives,” Fehrnstrom said.
“They agreed to disagree,” said Fehrnstrom. “They respect each other, despite those differences.’’
Clarification: An earlier version mentioned that Scott Brown met with Karl Rove, but aides noted it was not a scheduled get-together.