But now, as the two men anticipate tough general-election battles in the fall, their paths are beginning to diverge. Brown, who will face a difficult reelection fight, probably against Harvard professor and former Obama administration official Elizabeth Warren, is working hard to define himself as a “Massachusetts moderate,” hoping to build support among Democrats in the deeply blue state.
Romney, meanwhile, has been working equally hard to escape that label, which his rivals for the GOP presidential nomination have used as a slur against him during the primary campaign.
The likely result is that Brown will be forced into a delicate dance in the coming months to distance himself from a political mentor and his state’s other most prominent Republican politician. It is a twist of irony unique to Massachusetts but one that could hold broad significance to the marquee race.
Recent polls show Brown leading Warren, who has drawn national support because of her outspoken warnings about the excesses of Wall Street. But the November contest is widely considered a tossup, and the electoral math is difficult for Brown.
In the small world of Republican Massachusetts politics, the links between the two campaigns are especially close. Gail Gitcho, Romney’s communications director, once served that role for Brown. Colin Reed, Brown’s chief spokesman, used to work for Romney.
Robert Maginn, chairman of the state Republican Party, who is responsible for helping to get Brown reelected and boosting Romney’s chances if he becomes the party’s presidential nominee, is a Romney ally and a former board member at Bain Capital, which Romney founded.
And both campaigns employ strategist Eric Fehrnstrom to craft essentially opposite messages for the candidates — helping Romney argue that he is a reliable conservative and Brown present himself as an independent centrist.
“It might be easier for Brown if one of these other candidates were the nominee,” said Todd Domke, a Massachusetts-based Republican strategist. “Then he’d just distance himself totally and run as an independent. But he can’t plausibly do that entirely from Romney. The links between them are inextricable.”
Fehrnstrom referred questions to Brown’s campaign manager, Jim Barnett, who said that the campaigns’ overlap is “deep inside baseball” and that Massachusetts voters will support Brown’s moderate approach over what he said would be an overtly partisan turn by Warren.
“I don’t think voters care about the hired help,” he said of the shared consultants. “Massachusetts voters are very sophisticated, and they recognize that Scott Brown is an independent Republican and his own person.”