Scott Brown Seeks Distance from Tea Party

When Scott Brown won the senate seat vacated when Ted Kennedy died, he immediately came to symbolize voter discontent with Washington — and in blue-to-the-core Massachusetts of all places.

Or at least that was the narrative shopped around by the then-ascendant Tea Party.

Yesterday, Brown broke with the Tea Party line in his most overt way yet: By issuing a statement chastising his far-right Republican colleagues in the House for their refusal to take up Senate-approved legislation that would continue a tax cut for the middle class for two months.

According to the statement, Brown called the move “irresponsible and wrong.” You wouldn’t think a guy who’s facing a tough reelection bid against Elizabeth Warren could afford to smack down the very politically engaged faction that assisted his rise to power.

But that’s because election politics are starting to influence Congress’s day-to-day. Here in Mass., the Romney name is a blessing and a curse for Brown’s re-election bid. And with the expected crush of Bay State Democrats out to back Obama, Brown is positioning himself to capture the independent vote.

In fact, just last week, the whole of Congress seemed to tack center, abandon their ideological trenches, and head toward compromise and moderation. The Senate’s compromise-heavy legislation to extend the middle class tax cut was the realization of that. Of course, the sentiment didn’t last, but Brown’s very public very strong words for his House counterparts does represent something new.

So don’t be surprised if Brown speaks out like this again, or if the entire establishment Republican message starts looking less polarized and polarizing (Newt) and more ideologically flexible (Mitt).

For everything we’ve seen in the past three years, the measure of this election could be a candidate’s willingness to abandon ideological extremes (and indeed, Warren is vulnerable here) rather than seeming ideologically pure and frustratingly inflexible.