Brown briefly put his Senate campaign aside

Card wanted a clear path on GOP ticket

By Mark Arsenault
Globe Staff / February 18, 2011

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WASHINGTON — Scott Brown briefly abandoned his improbable campaign for the Senate near its inception, after what Brown describes as a tense and testosterone-fueled confrontation with another potential candidate, former White House chief of staff Andy Card.

In his new book, Brown, the Massachusetts Republican, writes of a private meeting with Card in early September 2009, in which the former aide to President George W. Bush initially angered Brown and then motivated him to step aside and give Card a clear path to the Republican nomination.

“I probably was being a little disrespectful [to Card]; I was fairly pissed,’’ Brown writes, after revealing that Card told him he intended to run for the seat. “But he was also pissed.’’

The anecdote from Brown’s autobiography, “Against All Odds,’’ is one of several behind-the-scenes glimpses of Brown’s shocking win last year in the special election to fill the seat vacated by the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. The book is set for release on Monday. The Globe obtained a copy of Brown’s book this week.

In the weeks after Kennedy died in August 2009, Card, a Holbrook resident and former Massachusetts legislator who also served as US secretary of transportation, was considered an early front-runner for the Republican nomination for Senate.

Even Brown, then a little-known Massachusetts state senator, acknowledged that Card was a “logical choice’’ to carry the GOP flag in the special election, because of Card’s national profile and vast political connections.

As Brown began making calls to Republican officials late that summer to line up support for a Senate run, he writes, a lot of people told him he was their second choice — behind Card.

According to Brown’s account, he tried to reach Card to learn his intentions but couldn’t track him down.

Then in September, Brown got a call from Ron Kaufman, the Republican National Committee member for Massachusetts and another former White House aide, who also happened to be Card’s brother-in-law. Kaufman asked Brown to a meeting with Card and then picked him up in a dark sport utility vehicle with tinted windows, Brown recalls.

The three of them got together at Kaufman’s home in Beacon Hill.

That was when Card told Brown he was leaning toward running for Senate. Brown replied that he was also running and had planned to announce his candidacy that night at a GOP State Committee meeting in Newton.

“And then I told him, ‘Andy, I’ll beat you,’ ’’ Brown writes. “That upped the testosterone level in the room. He replied, ‘Well, I don’t need to be threatened by you, you know.’ ’’

Brown writes that he told Card the voters mostly remembered him as the guy who interrupted Bush’s storybook session at a Florida elementary school on Sept. 11, 2001, to whisper in the president’s ear that America was under attack by terrorists.

Card’s ties to Bush — who was highly unpopular in the Bay State — would be hard to overcome, Brown warned.

“I don’t have that problem,’’ Brown writes, recounting their conversation. “And I think you would lose and I would beat you.’’

The room got very tense, Brown writes, but then Card started talking about how badly he wanted to run and to serve in the Senate. He talked for a long time, according to Brown.

“His passion truly moved me,’’ Brown writes, “and at that moment, I had an epiphany.’’ He decided to drop his plans to run and would support Card.

“Andy looked at me in disbelief. . . . And he said, ‘You’d do that for me?’ I answered, ‘Absolutely.’ ’’

Card could not be reached yesterday, but Kaufman in an interview confirmed the basic facts of Brown’s account, saying it was an honest, frank conversation.

“It could have been a disaster among men who weren’t as confident in themselves or who had bigger egos or who were personally driven; it was just the opposite,’’ Kaufman recalled. “I think Andy was really impressed with the way Scott handled himself.’’

That night, after their private meeting, Brown endorsed Card before Republican activists at the GOP State Committee meeting.

“I am going to encourage all of you to support Andy and encourage him to run,’’ he told the crowd. Brown writes in his book that his campaign consultants “went ballistic over what I had done.’’

Card did not formally declare his candidacy that night, though he confirmed at the committee meeting that he was interested in running.

Later that week, fortunes turned: Card called Brown to tell him he would not be a candidate.

Brown immediately started working the phones. “By 2 p.m. the next day, I had a hotel reception room rented and campaign signs printed, I had my speech ready, and I had people there,’’ he writes. “I got up in front and announced my candidacy for US Senate.’’

Mark Arsenault can be reached at top stories on Twitter

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