TAMPA - Senator Scott Brown said today he was asked to play a bigger role at the Republican National Convention but limited his attendance to a single day because of scheduling demands, not concern about fallout for his reelection campaign.
“Obviously, me being here is important in that, you know, it shows that someone who’s a pro-choice 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 said. “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, will tonight accept their party’s presidential nomination, but he denied trying to distance himself from the GOP’s more extreme elements as he faces his own stern challenge from Democrat Elizabeth Warren in traditionally Democratic Massachusetts.
“I have my own race, and I have my own life, as you know,” he told reporters just after arriving at Romney’s waterfront hotel. “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.”
Nonetheless, he said the visit was “a bucket-list thing,” since he had never been to one.
It was a startling statement in the context of his political stature: He won a January 2010 special election to succeed the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Democratic icon. His seat gave Republicans the necessary votes to filibuster Democratic initiatives, and his reelection could help the GOP regain majority control of the upper chamber of Congress.
“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 orRrepublican, it’s good for Massachusetts when one of our own rises to this level.”
Brown flew into Tampa this morning from Washington, where he has been serving National Guard duty this week at the Pentagon.
He said he looked forward to spending time with his wife, Gail Huff, and one of their daughters, Ayla, before saying hello to members of the state’s convention delegation.
Tonight, he will join them on the floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum as they all watch the unlikely spectacle of one of their own emerge as the GOP’s presidential standard-bearer for 2012.
Brown and Romney share some of the same political strategists, including Eric Fehrnstrom.
While Brown has campaigned in Massachusetts virtually every day this month, aides said he was late in coming to the convention because of his Guard commitment.
His late arrival made him miss Ayla Brown - a onetime American Idol semifinalist - singing the National Anthem during Wednesday night’s convention session. She was slated to sing again this morning for the Tennessee convention delegation.
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.
Warren will have a prominent speaking role at next week’s Democratic National Convention, reflecting her prominence in the party this year as she battles to unseat Brown and retain a Democratic majority in the Senate.
Brown’s numerous television and radio ads have not mentioned his party affiliation but they have touted his work with President Obama and support from Bay State Democrats such as former Boston Mayor Raymond L. Flynn.
The senator has also worked to distance himself from some of his party’s more controversial elements, including calling for Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin 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.
By coming to the Republican convention for just one day, Brown will display his Republican colors but not wave them in a way to attract attention.
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 contraction,” Fehrnstrom said. “They agreed to disagree. They respect each other, despite those differences, and he’s supporting Mitt Romney in this election because the number one issue is jobs and the economy, and he witnessed firsthand what Governor Romney was able to accomplish on that front in Massachusetts.”
Warren rejected the notion that she is trying to run against Romney and other Republicans instead of Brown. “I know exactly who I’m running against. 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 womens’ access to insurance coverage for birth control,” she said while touring a South Boston business. “He is part of the bigger Republican economic agenda. ...You can’t have it both ways.”Glen Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.