When a New England Tea Party group announced plans to rally in Boston this week with Sarah Palin as a speaker, it seemed like a no-brainer to invite Sen. Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican elected in no small part because of the grassroots conservative group.
But Brown declined the invitation to Wednesday's event on Boston Common, leading some to wonder if he's distancing himself from the movement.
A Brown staffer dismissed such suggestions, saying the senator is simply busy in Washington and can't get away.
"He'll be doing the job he was elected to do -- serving the people of the commonwealth of Massachusetts," spokesman Felix Browne told The Boston Herald
, which first reported the senator's RSVP. Browne said the senator applauds the "energy and enthusiasm" Palin and the Tea Partiers bring to politics.
Some analysts say Brown is moving to the center as he looks toward re-election in 2012. Brown may not want to be associated with the rhetoric at Tea Party events, which is notoriously heated.
"You're worried at a rally that there's a sign, a statement, an incident that's certifiably cuckoo occurs," political analyst Lou DiNatale told the newspaper. "To win re-election, Scott Brown floating to the right is a serious problem. . . . And showing up at a Sarah Palin, Tea Party event is not the way to the middle."
Tea Party members in Massachusetts told the Herald they're not upset that Brown turned down their invitation.
"He said he was going to be in Washington," said Barbara Klain of the Greater Lowell Tea Party. "He needs to be doing his job."