The resilient Senator Scott Brown

Lesley Stahl profiles the Republican senator from Massachusetts who has defied the odds

Scott Brown has defied the odds all his life. He's the Republican who came out of nowhere last year and won the Senate seat Ted Kennedy held in Massachusetts for 47 years.

He's an anti-tax, fiscal conservative whose election in blue-state Massachusetts energized and helped launched the Tea Party movement. As the 41st Republican senator, everyone thought he'd be the "no" vote that blocked nearly everything President Obama and the Democrats proposed. But he has turned out to be unpredictably independent and beholden to no one.

Now Senator Brown has written a memoir called Against All Odds about the hardships of his early years. As the child of seven broken marriages, his childhood was marked by neglect, violence and trauma.

Segment: Scott Brown
Extra: Scott Brown on sex abuse
Extra: Rescuing Mom
Extra: Reelection worries?

"Do you think that you have innate resilience?" correspondent Lesley Stahl asked.

"I think as a result of what I've gone through it makes me tougher, absolutely," Sen. Brown replied.

"Things roll off your back more easily because of your life?" Stahl asked.

"Yup," Brown said. "When I'm getting the crap beat out of me outside in the political spectrum, I'm like: 'Pssss, this is nothin'. Bring it. Let's go. Next!'"

Brown has needed that bring-it-on toughness in Washington, where he is showing everyone he is his own man, with a voting record that has his fellow Republicans in a dither.

"I look at each and every bill on its merit regardless of party affiliation," Brown told Stahl. "Party plays no bearing whatsoever at all, in any of the votes that I take, period. So to say, 'Well, the party wanted this,' I don't care what the party did.'"

You don't hear that kind of talk every day. While Brown votes with the Republicans against tax increases, he has broken ranks on other major issues, like a jobs measure and ending the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

"Whichever way you vote, you're very likely to tick off the Tea Party or Massachusetts. You're right caught in this horrible vise," Stahl pointed out.

"Well, I don't know if I'm ticking off the people in Massachusetts. I think I'm doing exactly what they wanted. They sent somebody down there who they wanted to be an independent voter and thinker. And if I'm upsetting people on the left and on the right, then I must be doing my job," Brown said.

"I have a history of working across party lines and I'll try to do the same thing here," he added.

When he worked across party lines and became a decisive vote in passing the bill to expand government oversight of Wall Street, the Tea Partiers called him "Benedict Brown" and said they would support another Republican when he runs again.

"He's in the tradition that we should have in our politics where you stand for things but you can differ reasonably," Democratic Congressman Barney Frank told Stahl.

"You compromise, the dreaded word," Stahl remarked.

"Absolutely," Frank said.

Frank negotiated with Brown to win his vote on the financial reform bill.

"The Wall Street Journal op-ed page went crazy attacking him. The Tea Partiers said he was a betrayer," Stahl said. "Everything came down on his head. He voted for this bill in the end."

"Frankly, my guess is that, in Massachusetts, that's the kind of attack that politicians welcome. Because you had a fairly shrill group attacking you, on something that you did that was very popular and you don't mind getting that attention," Frank said.

Produced by Karen Sughrue

60 Minutes App

New Look. New Season. The 60 Minutes app for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch!

More from 60 Minutes