As Andy Card consults with his family and makes a final decision on whether or not to enter the Kennedy seat special election, I have to say I am a bit perplexed by this turn of events.
The Scott Brown candidacy made sense to me. He's a sitting State Senator with a well-known family. He ran very well in his district in 2008, even as it overwhelmingly voted for Obama. Even if he lost the special election, he would still be in the Senate, would raise his profile, and perhaps help the State GOP build some momentum for next November's Gubernatorial race.
quick snapshot of his candidacy almost in jest. Although he maintains a home in Holbrook, he has essentially lived in Washington for 25 years, and hasn't been a candidate for office in 27 years. He is well regarded as a person and political figure by former colleagues, but isn't a dynamic speaker or candidate. Massachusetts voters probably don't know the name (I'm counting on Rasmussen to do a Republican poll soon), and if they do, they likely associate it with President Bush. Card would be extremely unlikely to stand for any other Massachusetts office, so he wouldn't be campaigning with an eye towards raising his profile.
So why would he run? (And why was Scott Brown so quick to back down? This one I have no answer for, especially if Card decides not to run and then Brown gets back in. Just a strange situation that hopefully some Repub readers can shed some light on.)
Maybe the answer lies in the current national political climate, the makeup of the Senate, and the election calendar. Obviously the political dynamic in Washington and the nation is toxic right now. The health care debate and the rancor resulting from it has given us negatively charged town hall meetings and even a loss of decorum in the United States Congress. Whether or not health care reform legislation passes in the next few months, there will be political fallout, and both parties will be looking for barometers to measure it in advance of the mid-term elections. Congressional races are too low-profile, and gubernatorial races can be too local. The Senate is the best option.
There have now been six openings created in the Senate since January. In Illinois (Obama), Delaware (Biden), New York (Clinton), Colorado (Salazar), and Florida (Martinez), the Governors had the power to appoint interim replacements to serve until the mid-term elections next November. In Texas, where Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson is expected to resign sometime in the next few weeks, Governor Rick Perry would appoint an interim Senator to serve until a special election, likely on May 8, 2010. (If Hutchinson resigns before September 28, the special election would be November 3 - an unbelieveably short time frame).
That leaves Massachusetts as the only state with a major election between now and May 8. Given its exclusive place on the political scene, and the fact that the seat belonged to JFK and Ted Kennedy, it will likely generate a great deal of national attention. Thus, despite the extreme unlikelihood that a Republican can capture a Massachusetts Senate seat for the first time in more than 40 years, the Kennedy seat election could potentially be a sounding board for campaign themes and messages that both parties could use in the 2010 mid-terms (when there will be whopping 38 Senate seats up for grabs - the most in one cycle since 1962).
For the Republican party in particular, Massachusetts offers them a major market (don't forget Boston TV stations reach into New Hampshire, where there will be a hotly contested Senate race between Congressman Paul Hodes (D) and former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte (R)) in which to test anti-Obama messages to see how they play, without risking damage to a candidate they truly believe can win. Boston TV does cost a lot of money, but the short sprint of the campaign and the expectation that they won't win anyway would probably limit expenditures by the NRSC.
So where does Andy Card fit in? If you are a national party hoping to float some new messages and get some free national media to test them out, you need a proven commodity as a candidate. State Senator Scott Brown, as important as he might be to the state GOP, probably doesn't cut it for CNN, or Fox News, or the average national Republican voter. Andy Card? He of the auto-industry; the Washington power corridors; the Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II administrations; the methodist minister wife? He plays.
What does Card get out of it? Not sure. I believe he really does care about Massachusetts, and probably always wanted to take this shot. The campaign will be very short, and, win or lose, I don't think his wife would need to give up her church and move back to Massachusetts (residency is not a requirement, and many Senators and Congressmen spend most of their time in DC anyway). Maybe he is just bored.
Card is very smart. He knows he would have to "climb the mountain of conflict" in order to somehow emerge victorious, and given that he has run and lost statewide before, I can't imagine he would be eager to do it again unless his effort served some greater purpose.
Therefore, I think if Andy Card runs he is doing so on the advice of RNC leaders who want a big name, party roots candidate who can help them test out some new messages for 2010.
What do you think of my theory? Am I way off-base? Weigh in below our email me.