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Looking to press home an advantage over rival Elizabeth Warren in their Senate race in Massachusetts, Republican Scott Brown has backed his famous pickup truck out of the garage for a new television advertisement.
In the new 30-second spot, "Growing Up," Brown speaks directly to the camera about how his upbringing shaped his values, from the wheel of the 2005 GMC Canyon truck. The pickup famously became part of the "everyman" image that Brown nurtured during his 2010 upset win in a special election to fill the Senate seat held for over 40 years by the late Edward Kennedy, a Democratic icon who died of cancer in August 2009.
Then, Brown criss-crossed Massachusetts in the truck, logging thousands of miles, often clad in his equally iconic brown barn jacket. An unknown just weeks before that election, Brown stormed from behind to win by almost 5 points over state Attorney General Martha Coakley.
A new survey by Public Policy Polling shows that Brown leads Democrat Warren by 49 percent to 44 percent among likely voters in a survey taken August 16-19. When PPP surveyed in late June, the pair were tied at 46 percent.
"Scott Brown's been able to hold up his image as a moderate and that has him in a good position right now," said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. "Democrats will have to convince voters who like him to vote against him anyway to keep the Senate from going Republican."
In the new ad, Brown discusses his early years. "Like many of you, I didn't have it easy growing up. Moved around a lot as a kid. My mom had to work more than one job just to get by. Life certainly wasn't a picnic. But I was raised to work hard, be honest, and play by the rules. Put myself through college, joined the National Guard. As tough as it was growing up, I wouldn't change a thing."
Democratic strategists see the Massachusetts seat as one of the best chances for a pickup in this fall's election - in part because the state has a much higher level of registered Democrats than Republicans. It is one where President Barack Obama is likely to win handily. Brown's challenge is to get as many Obama voters as possible to split their ticket.
In that vein, the Brown campaign has been airing three spots in which local Democrats back Brown. In their testimony they clearly identify themselves as Democrats, but Brown's Republican affiliation is not mentioned.
The PPP poll suggests Brown might be having some success hiving off Democratic support. Twenty percent of Democratic voters say they will support Brown, up from 18 percent in June. Voters are still more concerned that Warren, a former Obama administration official, is too liberal compared with those who view Brown as too conservative. Independents gave Brown a 26-point advantage, 58 percent to 32 percent.
Brown's attempt to carve out an independent niche arguably got a boost this week as controversy raged about Missouri Republican Todd Akin's comments about "legitimate rape." Brown was one of the first Republicans to urge Akin to drop out of his race for the Senate. On Wednesday, at a campaign stop in Natick, Massachusetts, Brown described himself as "a pro-choice, independent Republican."