BOSTON — Two years ago, Scott P. Brown was a little-known state legislator on the cusp of one of the biggest upset victories in modern politics: capturing Edward M. Kennedy’s longtime Senate seat in this overwhelmingly Democratic state, costing that party its filibuster-proof majority and becoming a Republican sensation.
Mr. Brown will return to candidate mode on Thursday, opening his re-election campaign with a rally in Worcester on the anniversary of his victory and leaping into what will likely be one of the most expensive, scrutinized and suspenseful races in the nation this year.
His presumed Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard professor and consumer advocate, has enchanted her party’s national base and raised $9 million in a mere five months. And while Mr. Brown has more money, more fame and other advantages of incumbency, he is already running hard as polls suggest a tight race.
“No one’s ever going to outwork me,” Mr. Brown said in an interview Tuesday. “It’s just a question of reminding people why they voted for me and pointing out the very, very clear differences between Professor Warren and me.” So far, that involves portraying Ms. Warren as a partisan ideologue and himself as a thoughtful independent who abhors the interparty sniping that has paralyzed Capitol Hill.
It also means embracing a label that former Gov. Mitt Romney has run away from in the Republican presidential primary race: “Massachusetts moderate.”
Betting that the independent voters who make up a majority here will admire his record of breaking ranks with Republicans, Mr. Brown has been pointing to several high-profile votes, including his support for the Dodd-Frank bill, which overhauled financial regulation, and the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
More recently, Mr. Brown was the lone Republican to support President Obama’s nomination of Richard Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency that Ms. Warren helped set up in Washington. He even defended the president’s recess appointment of Mr. Cordray this month.
“It’s going to be tougher to make Brown into Darth Vader when he’s working hard to be somewhere in the middle,” said Jack Corrigan, a Boston-based veteran of Democratic campaigns. Mr. Corrigan has joked that Mr. Brown wants to present himself as “the third woman from Maine,” a reference to Mr. Brown’s fellow Republican swing votes in the Senate, Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins.
With control of the Senate at stake, outside groups are already pouring money into the race in the form of third-party television advertisements attacking both candidates. Mr. Brown wrote Ms. Warren a letter last week asking her to join him in calling for an end to all spending by third-party groups in the race.
Ms. Warren promptly agreed, calling Mr. Brown within hours of receiving the letter to discuss how to draw up “an enforceable agreement.”
Seeking the upper hand on the issue once again, on Wednesday Mr. Brown proposed that whenever an outside group runs an ad, the candidate it benefits should donate half the cost of the ad to a charity of his or her opponent’s choice. Ms. Warren responded that they should “go beyond” that proposal and suggested others. Aides to both candidates are scheduled to meet Friday on the matter.
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This story first ran in the New York Times on January 18, 2012.