LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown urged President Barack Obama to take a cue from Bill Clinton following a midterm election setback and shift to the political center in dealing with the nation's economic woes.
Brown, who became a political sensation when he captured the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in January, also said the incoming class of senators elected last week should become "an independent breed."
Speaking at the University of Louisville, Brown said the Republican resurgence will give newly emboldened GOP lawmakers "the ability to force a different type of approach to solving our very real problems."
"I'm hopeful that the majority party and the president got the message that Washington has to start listening to the people throughout this country," Brown said. "It's no more 'my way or the highway.'"
Brown's upset in Democratic-dominated Massachusetts foreshadowed the Republican midterm comeback, when the GOP gained at least 60 House seats, enough to win a majority, and significantly narrowed the Democrats' advantage in the Senate.
Brown said Obama should follow the example set by then-President Bill Clinton after Republicans took over the House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.
"My hope is that the president comes more to the center, and starts to govern and lead like President Clinton did to try to tackle the very real issues," Brown said. Although Clinton and congressional Republicans found common ground on measures such as welfare reform, the GOP-controlled Congress later impeached him as a result of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Later, Scott said of the Obama administration: "With all due respect to the president and to the leaders there, we're not on the right path."
"We're kind of just hanging on for dear life," he added. "People are still hurting, they're still uncertain."
Brown capitalized on tea party support to pull off his improbable win. He sounded tea party themes in his speech, saying the federal government spends and taxes too much and has grown out of touch with people.
"They're tired, they're angry," Brown said of voters. "They're tired of business as usual, they're tired of political rhetoric, and they've had enough."
Brown said the tea party movement has "gotten people off their couches and gotten them involved."
Last week, Republican Rand Paul, a tea party favorite, was elected to the Senate from Kentucky.
Since his election, Brown has shown a moderate streak, having sided with Senate Democrats on key votes on a major jobs bill and sweeping financial reform.
Brown shared the stage Monday with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, a UofL graduate. He called the Kentuckian a mentor. But Brown also professed his independence, stating: "There shouldn't be a little letter at the end of my name dictating who I am and what I stand for."
"I made it very clear to the leader that I wouldn't be a rubber stamp for anyone," he said. "I'm hopeful that the new breed of senators coming in will also be an independent breed, looking to find ways to get our country moving again."
Brown said that in his travels to meet foreign dignitaries since his election, the dominant topic has been job creation. But he said the issue seems to barely come up in the Senate.
"The one thing that can get us back on track is getting our economy fixed, period," he said. "It's about jobs, it's about hiring people, it's about getting certainty in an uncertain business climate."
Brown's speech was part of the McConnell Center's lecture series at UofL. He spoke to a crowd that included university faculty, staff and students as well as members of the general public.