Last week, Tim Mak reported that former White House chief of staff Andy Card took a serious look at running for Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat in Massachusetts but Scott Brown cleverly talked him out of it. That’s a good thing for the Republicans: If Card had been the GOP nominee — Mak reports Brown would have stepped aside for him — Martha Coakley would be in the U.S. Senate right now. (How much do you want to bet that she would have already been seated?)
Card, a rabblerousing state legislator who lost the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 1982, was considered a top prospect for statewide office as his national profile rose throughout the 1990s. But he never ended up running. The last time his name was seriously floated was in 2002, when 9/11 was still fresh in people’s minds and working for George W. Bush wasn’t such a political liability even in Massachusetts. The sitting Republican “acting” governor, Jane Swift, was unpopular so the GOP was casting about for a replacement candidate.
Card polled respectably, beating the bottom two declared Democrats and tying a third who was in the middle tier. But he trailed the two frontrunning Democrats, including the eventual nominee, Shannon O’Brien. That was better than Swift’s performance against the same Democrats, but not as good as Mitt Romney’s — the same poll showed Romney beating all five Democratic gubernatorial candidates, some of them by double-digit margins. So Romney it was.
If Andy Card would have struggled in 2002 against a Democratic field that included former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, there is no way someone so closely tied to Bush would have gotten the overwhelming independent support needed to beat a Democrat in Massachusetts in 2010. If Brown really talked him out of running, it’s yet another reason for Capitol Hill Republicans to buy the man a drink.