On the verge of what is expected to be a long reelection year, US Senator Scott Brown declared himself the underdog yesterday in a battle against probable Democratic opponent Elizabeth Warren, but expressed confidence that he can win a full six-year term by persuading voters that she is too liberal and uncompromising on a host of issues.
“I’ve always been the underdog, and I will be the underdog again,’’ Brown said yesterday, referring to his come-from-behind victory in January 2010 when he stunned the political world by capturing the Senate seat once held by Edward M. Kennedy.
The senator’s decision to talk about the pending Senate campaign follows months of general silence from him and his aides during which Warren has emerged as a major threat to his reelection effort.
Brown, who used a South Boston diner yesterday for a round of brief, 15-minutesit-down interviews with Massachusetts reporters, sought to paint himself as a bipartisan, moderate Republican.
He even seemed to leave the door open in the future to move away from his no-new-taxes pledge when he said was open to raising tax rates in an overhaul of the federal tax system.
“If you want to raise rates or do something as part of overall tax reform, I am all ears,’’ Brown said as he sipped a whipped-cream covered hot chocolate at Mul’s diner on West Broadway.
A spokesman who was later asked to clarify the senator’s anti-tax position said it will remain in place until Congress “can show that it will manage taxpayers’ hard-earned money responsibly.’’
Grover Norquist - president of Americans for Tax Reform, who initiated the no-new-taxes pledge that Brown and 40 other Republican senators have signed - said Brown’s statement does not violate that commitment.
Asked about the opening Brown left himself by tying his pledge to congressional tightening of fiscal policies, Norquist chuckled. “That is not on the list of things that keeps me awake at night,’’ he said.
While he touted himself as the most bipartisan senator, Brown did not hesitate yesterday to draw on Republican talking points when he accused the Democrats of stirring class strife with their call to raise rates on wealthy taxpayers in order to ease some of the cuts that both parties agree are needed to deal with the federal deficit.
He said the Democratic efforts are aimed “to single out particular classes of people and to start this class warfare thing.’’
“I don’t know when we started to demonize success in this country,’’ Brown said.
He also suggested that attacks on the rich can hit middle-class families that have large incomes. “Remember those are the policemen and teachers and nurses who are working overtime to pay the bills and have the mortgages and the two cars and two tuitions, in Massachusetts especially,’’ he said.
Yesterday, Brown described Warren, his leading Democratic rival, as a “very competent, credible candidate’’ and pointed to her credentials as Harvard Law School professor. But, he added, she is “very, very liberal.’’
But he repeatedly referred to her as “Professor Warren,’’ a moniker that Republicans use to imply that she is an academic, more comfortable in the salons of Cambridge’s Brattle Street than on the main street of Massachusetts.
He pointedly referred to Warren’s claim to be the “intellectual foundation’’ of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which he said rejects the capitalist, free-enterprise system.
“You don’t see me demonizing our job creators or employers,’’ he said.
His comments reflect a theme that is expected to dominate the upcoming Senate race.
Polls show the two candidates are running neck and neck, exciting Democrats who earlier felt that Brown was too popular to unseat.
Warren raised more than $3.1 million in the first weeks after she entered the race and is expected to duplicate that amount when the next quarterly reports are made public next month.
Brown, who became an instant national political rock star when he captured Kennedy’s former Senate seat, has a huge war chest, approaching about $15 million.
He has been drawing on a national fund-raising base that has given him one of the largest campaign accounts among US senators.
Brown admitted he faces a tough fight to beat back Warren’s challenge, but said yesterday that he is confident he can persuade Massachusetts voters that he is a better choice for them on economic and pocketbook issues.
He also said that he has shown his independence by voting with the Republican leadership just 75 percent of the time.
Warren, by contrast, adheres to a rigid liberal ideology, he said.
“She’s stated there’s no problem leaving blood and teeth in the streets and not compromising,’’ he said.
Frank Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org