Former senator Scott Brown on Sunday visited Iowa, the first state to vote during presidential nominating contests, as part of a four-state Midwestern swing that he said allowed him to road-test his moderate Republican message.
Brown said he had been received "surprisingly well" and that he planned to continue political travel to preach the need for a GOP that embraces a broader ideological spectrum.
The trip comes as Massachusetts Republicans await word on Brown's intentions for 2014. He has left open the options of running for governor here, or senator either in the Bay State or New Hampshire, where he has a home.
He made clear Sunday he has no intention of confining his political flirtations to the Interstate 93 area.
"Over the next year or so, I'll be coming out to speak to groups that want me to speak," Brown said.
In a telephone interview, Brown noted that his wife, Gail Huff, has family in Iowa whom he intends to visit during his trip. He also plans a stop at the Iowa State Fair, a frequent proving ground for presidential aspirants.
Brown, who since losing to Elizabeth Warren last year has been working as a Fox News contributor and attorney at Boston's Nixon Peabody law firm, said he had been widely recognized in the upper Midwestern states.
"It's been kind of interesting to walk into a gas station in Mitchell, S.D., and 'Are you Scott Brown?' or into the hotel last night in Fergus Falls [Minn.], and 'Are you Scott Brown?; And I'm like 'How do you know me?' and they say, 'I see you on Fox all the time,' " he said. "There's certainly an appreciation here for the straightforward way I do my job and set out facts."
His travels have not dissuaded Brown from wanting to run again in Massachusetts, but have offered an education into "a different way of life out here, a different appreciation of certain things," he said.
"When you're in one state or one region for your whole life almost, you're kind of under a bubble," Brown said.
Among GOP moderates, there is a fear that the hard right will make the party repellent to independent voters and demographic groups that party strategists say they need to win elections. In the conservative wing, there is distrust and wariness that the party could betray its principles altogether.
His "big-tent" pitch allows Brown to appeal, rhetorically at least, to both sides. A self-described national security hawk and fiscal conservative, he is to the left of many in his party on social issues.
"I'm all around, trying to speak and bring that message that there's room for me, there's room for Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rand Paul, there's room for all of us," he said Sunday.
Brown said his daughter Arianna got engaged during his trip to the Midwest, and that her fiancé had called him about three weeks ago. Brown did not miss the opportunity to tease his future son-in-law.
"He said, 'I've been saving for a ring.' I said, 'Oh really, what kind?' "