Mitt Romney, U.S. Sen. Scott Brown play down past connections

By Steve Leblanc

Associated Press

Published: Monday, May 21 2012 1:55 a.m. MDT

FILE - In this Feb. 18, 2010, file photo former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, is announced by Sen. Scott Brown, R, Mass., as he arrives on stage to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. The two Massachusetts Republicans have a history of supporting each other throughout their political careers, but facing tough elections neither is the presidential candidate nor the U.S. senator is playing up that history now, perhaps with good reason.

Cliff Owen, File, Associated Press

BOSTON — Massachusetts Republicans Mitt Romney and Scott Brown have a history of supporting each other throughout their political careers.

But with each facing a tough election, neither the presidential candidate nor the U.S. senator is playing up that history, perhaps with good reason.

Brown, trying to win re-election in one of the most Democratic states, spends much of his time promoting his bipartisan bona fides and describing himself as a "Scott Brown Republican" rather than a conservative or liberal Republican.

He may be one of the few Republicans running who boasts of working with President Barack Obama to pass bills. On his campaign website, Brown has posted pictures and videos of him with the Democratic incumbent.

Romney has moved increasingly to the right, shedding some of the more moderate positions he held as Massachusetts governor as he worked to rally GOP activists during the primaries.

Brown took a more moderate stance, alienating some of the conservative and tea party activists who helped elect him in 2010. Those are the same people Romney will need if he hopes to win in November. Brown's shift to the middle could make him a liability for Romney among conservatives.

Brown probably will continue to play down his ties to his former governor and emphasize his own independent streak, particularly with recent polls showing Obama enjoying a double-digit over Romney in Massachusetts.

"Brown sees pretty clearly that there are no Romney coattails in Massachusetts for him to ride and, indeed, being close to Romney for his own re-election bid could be a liability," said Paul Watanabe, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts.

The distance between the candidates is more than strategic. Romney and Brown have adopted competing views on several big issues, from a new nuclear weapons treaty with Russia to the fate of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

Romney has said Roe v. Wade should be reversed. Brown says a woman should have the right to an abortion, although he opposes federal money for the procedure. Brown voted for the new START treaty with Russia, saying it was important for national security. Romney said the treaty was Obama's "worst foreign policy mistake."

The differences don't stop there.

Romney has called for repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law. Brown voted for it. Romney backs amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage. Brown opposes such an amendment and says gay marriage is "settled law" in Massachusetts. Such unions became legal in the state in 2003.

Romney, in 2007, said the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy seemed to be working. Brown voted with Democrats and some Republicans to end the policy that barred gays from serving openly in the military, earning praise from the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay GOP group.

While Romney hasn't said if he'll release more than two years of his income tax returns, Brown has made public six years of his tax documents.

When pressed on the differences of opinion, Brown's campaign repeats his endorsement of Romney.

"Sen. Brown thinks Mitt Romney is a good and decent person who is devoted to his family and strong on jobs and the economy and that's why he supports him for president," Brown spokesman Colin Reed said in a statement.

The campaigns also share staff, including Eric Fehrnstrom, a top political adviser to both men. Fehrnstrom did not respond to a request for comment.

Romney and Brown come from very different backgrounds. Brown's parents divorced early and his family moved often when he was young. Romney's father was a governor of Michigan and an automotive executive. Still, the two found political common ground nearly a decade ago.

Both are ambitious Republicans from a state known for frustrating GOP hopes.

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