Brown, 53, is also coming to see family – his wife, Gail Huff, a TV reporter, was born in Iowa and still has relatives in the Winterset area, he said.

But any nationally-known politician who comes to Iowa, home of the nation’s lead-off presidential vote, is viewed as sending signals of presidential – or vice presidential – aspirations. Brown has yet to rule out running for U.S. Senate again or for governor of Massachusetts in 2014, according to the Boston Globe, but his name doesn’t often appear on top 10 lists of 2016 White House prospects.

Asked about his presidential ambitions, Brown said: “I think a lot of people today, they live in a bubble. They live in their home state and they don’t leave their comfort zone or try to expand their knowledge or understanding of what’s happening around the rest of the country or in the rest of the world, in some instances.

“I want to understand the challenges and the opportunities and the aspirations of the people in the Midwest and how they view us and vice versa,” he said. “I want to see if there’s interest in my brand of politics, being a strong national security hawk and a fiscal conservative. The way I see it, hey, there’s plenty of room for people in the party like me and Sarah Palin and Rand Paul and Chris Christie, yet we’re always attacking each other for not fitting some ideologically pure mold.”