Behind the 'Scott Brown Strategy'

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This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 22, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, most people flat out said it was impossible, unthinkable, not going to happen, a Republican elected to fill the late Senator Ted Kennedy's open seat. So how did Senator-elect Scott Brown pull it off? Griff Jenkins talked to Brown's campaign strategist.


GRIFF JENKINS, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I'm with Eric Fehrnstrom, dubbed by Senator-elect Brown "the wonder boy." I watched him call you that. You were the wonder boy. Take me behind the scenes, Eric. What happened in this campaign?

ERIC FEHRNSTROM, SCOTT BROWN'S CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Well, you know, we had a strong candidate, first and foremost. You couldn't ask for a more disciplined candidate than Scott Brown. He had a strong team behind him, and he had strong positions on the issues. So from the first day of his campaign back in September, he was talking overtaxation, too much spending. He was talking about national security concerns, about how we have to treat terrorists as enemy combatants and not as ordinary criminals. And so he had a good, strong wind at his back.

And I must admit, it was slow going first. We had a contested Democratic primary that everybody was paying attention to. Even after Scott won his primary, we still had trouble getting attention. But I think after the attempted Christmas Day bombing of that Northwest flight, and then after the Senate passed their own version of health care, it helped crystallize the issues for Scott in a way that added fuel to his campaign, and things really took off the last 20, 21 days of the campaign.

JENKINS: So that's the turning point, you'd say, that you really felt that you guys had the momentum and things were coming together, perhaps as you never imagined.

FEHRNSTROM: Well, you have to understand, we planned for a low-budget campaign, so we didn't have any money for polling. So we had a sense that things were going well, but no objective evidence.

And Scott would come back after a day campaigning out on the street and he would tell us, guys, I am sensing something out there. We thought that was interesting. We thought possibly there could be some movement occurring in the electorate.

But we didn't know for sure until two days before Christmas when the NRSC contacted us and said they had done a poll, and the poll showed Scott was down 13 points.

But if you looked at the people who were highly interested in the race and they were asked to rate their interests on a scale of one to ten, among the 10s, Scott was statistically tied with his opponent Martha Coakley. It was 47-44 for Scott, so within the margin of error.

So we knew at that point that he was catching fire. And, as I said, then things really began to takeoff. Our online donations began to surge as people focused on him as the 41st vote in the Senate, a person who would bring back debate and transparency to the process in Washington. That really gave us the lift we need.

JENKINS: When did you know you had won?

FEHRNSTROM: We knew, of course, on election night, you know, very early on when we saw some of the returns that were coming in. The lines all day had been long at the polling stations in the suburbs which are generally more friendly to Republican candidates, and not as long in the cities like Boston. So we thought that was good anecdotal evidence.

But then when we started getting some actual returns from cities like Quincy, which is a blue collar community just south of Boston that showed Scott ahead of Martha Coakley, we knew it was going to be his night.

And then of course things happened very quickly. Shortly after 9:00, only an hour after the polls closed Martha Coakley called to concede to Scott.

JENKINS: You traveled with Senator-elect Brown to Washington. Take me behind the scenes there. How did that go? How was he received?

FEHRNSTROM: He was received very warmly. Starting on the flight down to D.C. one of the flight stewards made an announcement that Scott was on the plane, and there was spontaneous applause from the crew and the entire cabin. So that was very heartwarming.

And when he arrived he was greeted warmly by everybody he met, and at the capital he sat down with Republicans and Democrats, including Senator Kerry, who he will be serving with, and Senator Kirk, who he is replacing, but also John McCain. And John McCain was, along with Mitt Romney, one of Scott's earliest backers.

When nobody was willing to give Scott a second look, both Mitt and Senator McCain were there with encouragement, words of support, and financial help that was crucial early on so that we could you know get the campaign off the ground.


VAN SUSTEREN: OK, check out this historic moment caught on camera. That is Senator-elect Scott Brown moments after winning the election receiving a call from President Obama. You have to wonder the expression on president Obama's face as the realization the filibuster-proof Senate was crumbling had set in.

Dan Winslow was with Brown when that call happened. He's Senator- elect Brown's college friend and chief legal counsel for the campaign. Nice to see you.


VAN SUSTEREN: So tell me how the phone call happened?

WINSLOW: I was in the suite, and my cell phone rang, and I answered it, and a woman on the other end said this is the White House. The president wants to know if this is the best number to reach Senator-elect Brown?

My first thought was how did the president get my private line? And my second thought was maybe I shouldn't pay for the Patriot Act after all.

So I told her the senator's direct line and the president called on that line and spoke to the senator-elect, as you say in the photograph.

VAN SUSTEREN: What did you hear on your end? What was the conversation?

WINSLOW: Just as that photograph was being snapped, he was starting to grin a little bit. Right at that moment he said to the president, Mr. President, you realize I'm going to take the truck down to Washington? And they had a good laugh about that.

VAN SUSTEREN: I used the term "cocky" the other night and some were offended I used that word, but he had a little bounce in his step to say that to the President of the United States.

WINSLOW: He does. He's very self-assured. He's very comfortable in his own skin. But he's also very real. And I think the president at least from the side of the conversation that I could hear appreciated that. They had some laughs. Scott told the president about their common love of hope.

VAN SUSTEREN: How did you meet him in college?

WINSLOW: Scott was a year behind me in college and then again in law school. And we actually served together as senators in the tough student senate. That's how we got our start together.

VAN SUSTEREN: When is he going to get sworn in?

WINSLOW: We're still waiting to see. There's a formal process, which is the certification of the results at the state level, followed by a swearing in ceremony. There's an informal process where the Senate could simply by consent swear him in by waiving their internal rules and customs.

But for the time being, we believe the formal process is going to apply, and the earliest possible time that could be would likely be February 10th for the certification and thereafter for swearing in. So we are aiming for February 11th.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why is that? I take it that your secretary of state, who sent a letter on behalf of Congresswoman Tsongas before she was certified to the House, this is to the senate. Did the secretary of state from Massachusetts send a similar letter for Senator-elect Brown?

WINSLOW: Not just a similar letter, the identical letter. The state secretary went to bat the very next morning without even asking in writing his team, and he signed a report of the unofficial vote results, which right down to the secretary of the Senate that same morning.

You're right, Congresswoman Tsongas sworn in 48 hours later. Actually Senator Kennedy when he was elected in a special election for this seat in 1962 was sworn in the next day. So it really depends on the formal or informal preferences of the bodies in power at that time.

VAN SUSTEREN: The letter has arrived in the United States Senate. Have they responded and said we are going to do like we did with other members or we're going to think about it or we're not going to do it. What is the response?

WINSLOW: Our understanding is the Senate has a rule, rule two, which requires the certification to be submitted, and that is still pending here in Massachusetts. And there's a waiting period for vote tallies to be reported up from the local cities and towns to the state.

VAN SUSTEREN: What changed since Senator Kennedy -- has that rule come into effect since Senator Kennedy was sworn in?

WINSLOW: I'm not sure, but at the end of the day the Senate could be by consent seat Senator-elect Brown whenever it chose to. In the absence of consent we have to go through the formal process, and that's what we're going through now.

VAN SUSTEREN: I know you are chief counsel to the campaign, but I am curious, since we don't know a lot about Senator-elect Brown's, what he intends to do, because he doesn't have a long history because he's in the minority party in the state senator. What do you expect he's going to do?

WINSLOW: I think Scott Brown is going to be -- as the 41st senator, a lot has been made about the power to say no and to stop healthcare because he promised to vote against that and send it back to the drawing board.

But the real power of the 41st senator is the power to force both sides of this toxic partisan divide in Washington to listen to each other, to talk to each other, and to work together for the benefit of America, because that's what we need now.

And I think Scott has a record of working across the aisle as a bipartisan doer. And he's there to take sides. He's there because of his love of family, his love of country, and his love of his truck.

VAN SUSTEREN: Every single new candidate I've seen in Washington has said that -- I'm a uniter, not a divider, or the compassionate conservativism, or I want change, bring people together. No one has been able to achieve it. What makes you think this man has any better chance of doing it?

WINSLOW: I think because Massachusetts is almost unique in the country in being completely lopsided as a Democratic monopoly. And even in the state culture, this state environment, Senator Brown as a state senator was able to work closely with Democrats and to get things done for his senate district.

VAN SUSTEREN: What would you say was his single most significant legislative accomplishment here?

WINSLOW: Two things -- opposition to tax increases. He was a hard- liner on not increasing tax burdens to citizens. And he was also known statewide from both sides of the aisle for his expertise in veterans' affairs. As you know he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army National Guard, but he has expertise in going to bat for veterans and our servicemen and women, and I expect that will continue as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: You expect he will put on the brakes as far as his vote for any spending increases, raising the debt ceiling, or anything like that. That would be consistent?

WINSLOW: I expect you are going to see him being a fiscal hawk down in Washington. That's what he ran on and I expect that's what he will do.

VAN SUSTEREN: Dan, thank you.

WINSLOW: Thank you, Greta.

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