His appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last Thursday set off roars of approval.
“I'm the newly elected Republican senator from Massachusetts!” he told the cheering crowd. “Let me just say that – let me just say that one more time. I'm the Republican senator from Massachusetts.”
“I’m willing to work with anybody,” he told reporters, after the vote Wednesday. (For more on the vote on the jobs bill, click here.)
Brown says that he voted for the bill, over the concerns of GOP leadership, because “it’s filled with tax cuts that will help create jobs in Massachusetts.”
“But if it comes back from the House full of pork and special favors, I’m going to reserve the right to vote against it,” he added.
A celebrity since his surprise win last month of the seat held by liberal icon Edward Kennedy (D), Brown has been the most closely watched freshman since former Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama arrived in 2005 or Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2001.
But what gives Brown star status isn’t his presidential prospects, but his win in a blue state and his position as the 41st Republican vote. That gives the GOP a basis to derail any major bill.
“Republicans now have the 41st vote we need in the U.S. Senate to break Harry Reid's filibuster-proof majority and put the brakes on Obama's radical tax-and-spend, big government agenda,” said Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele in a Jan. 20 fundraising e-mail.
“And it's the vote we need to stop the Obama Democrats' disastrous government takeover of our health care system,” he added.
But when the 41st GOP senator instead became the first Republican to vote with Democrats on the jobs bill, conservative critics ripped into Brown on Facebook and other sites as a “traitor.”
“Republicans from Massachusetts from time to time will disappoint [conservatives], if you thought you were electing somebody from Texas,” says conservative activist Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.
Brown also campaigned as an independent, and the jobs vote signals that he’s serious about it. “He’s going to be hard to pin down,” says Jennifer Duffy, who covers Senate races for the Cook Political Report in Washington. “If he’s serious about getting reelected in Massachusetts, he’s not going to do it by voting across the board with Republicans,” she adds.