Jim Davis/Globe Staff
As Senator Scott Brown skewered leading Massachusetts Democrats with a joke-filled routine during a St. Patrick's Day political roast over the weekend, one of his top advisers delighted in a moment he helped script.
"Scott Brown at St. Patty's Day breakfast says he doesn't think John Kerry is an elitist ... and 'neither do his butlers,'" communications consultant Eric Fehrnstrom said via Twitter.
"Ha! Scott Brown says Southie parade only one where (House) speaker rides in a car for which previous speaker made the license plate," Fehrnstrom said in another of his series of tweets.
Yet as the crowd roared when Brown displayed a bipartisan flair, telling another joke that tweaked fellow Republican Mitt Romney for owning not one but three houses, Fehrnstrom's Twitter feed went silent.
No re-tweet of that dig at Fehrnstrom's original, and ongoing, boss. No basking in the glory enjoyed by his subsequent, and continued, boss.
The decision illustrates the challenge confronting Romney and Brown and some of the key men and women who have helped both reach their high stations in national politics.
Fehrnstrom and business partners Peter Flaherty and Beth Myers not only served Romney as governor of Massachusetts; they were top staffers for his unsuccessful campaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.
They then branched out on their own, formed the Massachusetts-based Shawmut Group, and directed Brown's upset win in the 2010 Massachusetts US Senate special election.
Now, the trio is assisting Romney as he plots a second presidential campaign and Brown as he seeks re-election to his first full Senate term.
The men's political fates could be decided the same day, Nov. 6, 2012, but the candidates and their advisers will face a challenge until then working in such close proximity to each other.
Romney was extraordinarily popular in Massachusetts when, in 2002, he returned from his successful leadership of the Olympic Winter Games and was elected governor. His star dimmed, though, as he began laying the groundwork for his presidential campaign with a move to the right, jokes before conservative audiences about his liberal homestate, and heavy out-of-state travel.
Such was his station that he was a virtual no-show for his running mate, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, as she ran to succeed him in the 2006 gubernatorial race.
Healey was happy to have it that way.
Romney also dropped out of sight during Brown's 2010 campaign, only to take the stage on election night after voters had already cast their ballots.
Brown was happy to have it that way, too.
Today, both men are complimentary but not necessarily complementary toward each other.
Brown declared early and often that Romney has his endorsement in the race for the GOP's 2012 presidential nomination. Romney has reciprocated, highlighting Brown's success as proof a strong Republican message can penetrate even the bluest of Democratic states.
Yet there is potential for future tensions.
First of all, there is time and focus for their mutual advisers. Romney will face a hydra-headed challenge for the nomination, confronted simultaneously by rivals such as Tim Pawlenty and Haley Barbour and Newt Gingrich. Or Sarah Palin.
That will occur this fall and next spring, well before Brown's re-election campaign begins (he almost assuredly won't face a Republican challenger for the GOP's Senate nomination). So far, so good.
But if Romney wins the nomination, and Democrats succeed in their effort to recruit a challenger to Brown, both of their campaigns will reach their peaks the following fall.
Who gets the Shawmut Group's best effort? Best commercial ideas? Debate prep? Political roast jokes?
Secondly, as Romney veers rightward nationally to win the nomination, while Brown moves to the center to win re-election in Massachusetts, conflicting views are inevitable. Each is his own man, but it's only natural for two people with similar political pedigrees to face questions about the other's policy views.
After all, if Romney and Brown were to win their campaigns, Brown would have to vote on Romney administration programs.
Currently, both men express similar views about Libya: They say US air strikes were justified because Moammar Khadafy was slaughtering his own countrymen.
Recently, though, they differed on the New START Treaty: Romney vehemently opposed the pact President Obama signed with Russia, while Brown voted for its ratification.
Both will also have to stage an artful dance as they call for repealing Obama's universal health care program, which was modeled after a 2006 Massachusetts bill that then-state Senator Brown voted for and then-Governor Romney signed into law.
Advisers argue that despite their shared party, geographical roots, and team of advisers, Romney and Brown are individual candidates with their own views. On some points they agree; on others, they don't.
You can also argue that Brown will benefit if Romney is at the top of the Massachusetts ballot come the fall of 2012, or, perhaps more likely, that Romney will benefit from being on the same ballot as a senator consistently polling as the most popular politician in Massachusetts.
And should Romney run, Fehrnstrom, Myers, and Flaherty are not expected to be paid staff members again but consultants. Fehrnstrom, for example, doesn't plan to be on Romney's plane again as traveling press secretary; rather, he intends to work from the home office and focus on message development and television commercials.
In Massachusetts, a relatively shallow Republican talent pool also doesn't give Brown many other options with Shawmut's breadth of local experience or national contacts.
Finally, Fehrnstrom and the other advisers note that they are hardly the only political consultants with more than one client. Their roster includes other politicians and businesses they prefer not to name.
"Our consulting business is not unlike other firms that have more than one client," said Fehrnstrom, readying himself for another Democratic tweak. "In this economy, we’re just thankful to have any clients at all."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.