BOSTON — In another step to distance himself from his party, Massachusetts Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown is asking GOP leaders to be more inclusive on the issue of abortion.
“If we are to grow and succeed in all parts of this great nation, we must be a ‘big-tent’ party,” Brown wrote. “There are people of goodwill on both sides of the abortion issue, and we need to send a message to voters that there is room in the Republican Party for differing perspectives.”
Brown released the letter just as news broke that for the first time in months Brown leads his Democratic opponent Elizabeth Warren. A Public Policy Polling survey found that Brown is leading Warren by five points. Pollster Tom Jensen says it’s the first time in 14 months that Brown has had the lead.
“It is getting to the point where there is pretty clearly some momentum going in Brown’s direction,” Jensen said. “The last poll was a tie, but the one before that, Warren was up by five points. So over the last five months, you’ve seen Brown gain 10 points, which is definitely pretty meaningful.”
But Jensen found something that could be a concern for Brown: Most Massachusetts voters want Democrats to retain their majority in the Senate.
“I think that Warren’s path to victory is really making the strong argument that she is needed in order for Democrats to keep control of the Senate,” Jensen said. “That if Warren is not elected, that these really extremist Republicans — who aren’t like Scott Brown — are going to end up with the majority.”
And so Tuesday, Warren tried to tie Brown’s position on issues affecting women to the rest of his party.
“And Scott Brown can’t have it both ways,” Warren said. “Remember, Scott Brown got on this train when he voted against equal pay for equal work, when he decided to become a co-sponsor of an amendment that would deny women access to birth control, and when he stood up and said: ‘Yay, Mitt Romney!’, who said he was going to get rid of Planned Parenthood, and ‘Yay, Paul Ryan!’, who’s out there on a bill wanting to redefine rape.”
Rep. Paul Ryan, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running mate, is co-sponsor of a bill that would prohibit funding abortions with federal money except in cases of “forcible” rape. Critics protested that “forcible” rape might not include women who are drunk or drugged when raped, who are mentally handicapped and coerced, or who are victims of statutory rape. The word “forcible” was dropped before the bill passed the House. The Senate has not voted on it.
Brown continually resists Warren’s attempts to tie him to the national Republican Party on women’s issues.
“Well, I think someone should remind Professor Warren that she’s running against me, and not against Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan,” Brown said. “And if she wanted to run against Mitt Romney, she should have been in the primary against the president. So I think she’s running in the wrong race.
“That being said, I live in a house full of women. As you know, I’m pro-choice.”
Brown did want to allow religious institutions to opt out of offering birth control through their health insurance plans. Like other Republican senators, such as Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, Brown opposed a bill mandating equal pay, calling it “the right cause,” but saying it would put too many burdens on employers.
Women are the one group with which Warren still has a lead. Among women, Warren leads Brown by nine points in the Public Policy Polling survey.
The poll was conducted before Monday, when Brown asked Missouri Republican Rep. Todd Akin to drop out of his Senate race after Akin had said in cases of “legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Brown led his party in calling on Akin to end his campaign.
Peter Ubertaccio, chairman of the political science department at Stonehill College, calls it a very smart move on Brown’s part.
“He got ahead of the Democratic critique and the Democratic tactic, which is to try to link any New England Republican with the national party,” Ubertaccio said.
Ubertaccio says if Brown is to pull out a victory, it is because people do not associate him with the more conservative elements of the national Republican Party. Because the poll was conducted over the weekend, it’s too early to say how Brown’s call on Akin to drop out or his call to drop the party’s anti-abortion platform will play among Massachusetts voters.