BETTENDORF — Scott Brown, the former Massachusetts senator and featured speaker at the Scott County Republican Party's fall fundraising dinner, said Tuesday night the GOP wants people with backbone, but he warned against "treating every last legislative maneuver as a make-or-break loyalty test."
Brown was the keynote speaker at the party's fifth-annual Ronald Reagan banquet.
It was his second trip to Iowa since August, when he visited the Iowa State Fair. The trips have stoked speculation about a potential 2016 presidential bid.
Brown isn't mentioned in the same breath as other higher-profile Republicans, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, to name a handful. But he has come to the state promising to offer a more expansive approach for a party that's been criticized for limiting its own appeal.
"We want people with convictions and backbone, not a bunch of pushovers on everything because they believe in nothing," he said. "But somewhere in between unbending partisanship and wishy-washy conformity, there's got to be a place where we meet and carry out the business of our country."
Brown made it clear he was talking about the tactics of a party that saw its approval rating dip in the wake of the government shutdown.
He lambasted the Affordable Care Act's rollout, saying it's a political opportunity in the 2014 and 2016 elections. And a one point, he said that in the same amount of time it took for the U.S. to win World War II, the Obama administration "couldn't even build a website."
Brown shocked the nation by being elected in 2010 to the Senate seat once held by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. But he lost last year to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Brown, who told of being raised by a single mother and facing economic hardship as a kid, also is mentioned as a possible contender for the Senate in New Hampshire.
The former senator has not said what his plans are. But he had some fun with the political speculation over his future, saying he told his wife he was traveling to Scott County to see the casinos.
"I like to roll the dice, so we'll see what happens," he said.
Brown's appeal for unity caught the ear of Leslie Beaudry of Buffalo, who said she's seen too much division in her party.
"The party needs to unify, if we're going to get anywhere," she said. "We can't keep throwing ourselves under the bus."
Brown joined Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and a lineup of suitors for the GOP's U.S. Senate nomination.
Branstad also is up for re-election next year, and although he's not said yet that he's definitely running, his campaign apparatus is being set up.
Branstad praised the performance of GOP governors across the country, citing New Jersey's Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.
Then, he pointed at Illinois, calling it a "basket case of mismanagement and incompetence."Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, also is up for re-election next year, although Branstad did not mention him by name.