Democrat Elizabeth Warren is using Republican U.S. Representative Todd Akin’s remarks on rape to focus on Scott Brown’s links to his party as she campaigns to replace him as Massachusetts’ junior senator in Congress.
In rallies around the state, including an appearance today in Boston, Warren is hammering the Republican agenda reflected by measures Brown supported, such as letting employers refuse to provide birth-control coverage in some instances. Brown has called on Akin to end his Senate campaign in Missouri after he said that “legitimate rape” rarely leads to pregnancy.
Brown opened a 49 percent to 44 percent lead over Warren in the latest poll, released today by Public Policy Polling in Raleigh, North Carolina. The survey suggests a weakness that Warren is seeking to exploit, as 53 percent said they would prefer that Democrats retain control of the Senate next year.
“Not just Rep. Akin -- GOP agenda would turn back the clock on women’s rights,” Warren said in a message posted on Twitter.com. Akin made the remark in a television interview Aug. 19, setting off a torrent of criticism. Republican leaders including presidential contender Mitt Romney have asked Akin to quit the campaign against Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat.
“This is part of a broader agenda that the Republicans are pushing and Scott Brown has said that he trusts no one more than Romney,” Alethea Harney, a Warren spokeswoman, said today by telephone. “Brown can try to be the first one to condemn these remarks but the fact is that he supports the Romney-Ryan ticket.”
Someone should remind Warren that she is running against Brown, not Mitt Romney, said Alleigh Marre, a Brown spokeswoman.
“Brown is an independent thinker who is rated one of the most bipartisan senators in the country,” Marre said. “He has a proven record of working across the aisle to get things done for the people he represents.”
The senator took issue today with the Republican National Committee’s plans to include a plank in its 2012 platform that he said opposes “a woman’s right to choose and supporting a constitutional amendment banning abortion.”
“I believe this is a mistake because it fails to recognize the views of pro-choice Republicans like myself,” Brown said in a letter to Reince Priebus, the party chairman.
“If we are to grow and succeed in all parts of this great nation, we must be a ‘big-tent’ party,” Brown said in the letter, which he made public. “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.”
Warren, a Harvard Law professor who helped set up the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is her party’s hope to recapture the seat long held by Ted Kennedy, who died in office in 2009. Brown upset Attorney General Martha Coakley, a Democrat, in a January 2010 special election to serve the remainder of Kennedy’s last six-year term. The outcome of the race could help determine which party controls the Senate, where Democrats wield a six-vote majority.
Independent voters backed Brown 58 percent to 32 percent in the Public Policy Polling survey, little changed from others taken earlier this year. While Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one in Massachusetts, 52 percent of voters are independents, state figures show. The automated telephone poll of 1,115 likely voters from Aug. 16-19 has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
Warren is painting Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, and running mate Paul Ryan, who represents Wisconsin in the House, as threats to women’s economic security and reproductive health in appearances as part of her “women for Warren” week of events that began yesterday.
“I’ve spent decades working on the economic issues that face working families -- wages, housing, health care, college -- and women and families are getting squeezed,” Warren said today in a statement. “The Romney-Ryan agenda threatens economic security of women and families.”
A Brown victory in November may give Republicans a Senate majority, which may help abortion opponents pass new limits on reproductive rights.
“Warren has the opportunity to use this to get voters to take another hard look at Scott Brown and recast this race as whether Scott Brown is really for Massachusetts or if he’s for the national Republicans,” said Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic consultant with the Dewey Square Group in Boston. “It’s a chance for her to go on offense.”
Brown is spending the week traveling from Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod, to Pittsfield, in the Berkshire hills, to meet voters, visit businesses and talk about jobs and the economy, Marre said. In a statement yesterday, Brown called on Akin to apologize.
“As a husband and father of two young women, I found Todd Akin’s comments about women and rape outrageous, inappropriate and wrong,” Brown said. “There is no place in our public discourse for this type of offensive thinking.”
Akin made a public apology today through a video release.
“Brown’s been able to hold up his image as a moderate and that has him in a good position,” said Dean Debnam, Public Policy Polling’s president, in a statement with the results. “Democrats will have to convince voters who like him to vote against him anyway to keep the Senate from going Republican.”