U.S. Senator Scott Brown and Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Warren take the stage Thursday night in the first of four — count ‘em, four — debates in what is the most closely watched congressional race in the country. The Republican Brown, the former Cosmo model and former state senator, won the seat formerly held by the late Ted Kennedy, who was one of the most iconic Democrats of the latter half of the 20th century. Brown pulled of an upset in a 2010 special election over Attorney General Martha Coakley, who, though popular, ran a hapless campaign.
Thursday’s debate moderated by Jon Keller will air nationally on C-SPAN (and WBZ-4, locally) at 7pm, and comes amid a flurry of polls released in the last week. Before a UMass Lowell/Boston Herald poll published on Wednesday night showed Brown with a 50% to 44% lead, four consecutive polls indicated Warren leading the senator. The polls come after Warren had been awarded a prime-time speaking slot on the penultimate night of the Democratic National Convention, right before former President Bill Clinton. Certainly, the national Democratic Party is eager to help Warren and take back the seat the party had held since John F. Kennedy assumed it in 1953. Brown is Massachusetts’ first Republican senator since Edward Brooke was defeated by Paul Tsongas in 1978.
The race is one of the most expensive in nation, as fundraising has not been a problem for either candidate. Brown’s key backers include major securities and investment firms, including Wall Street heavyweights Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, as well as Mitt Romney’s former firm, Bain Capital.
Warren, meanwhile, has taken in substantial amounts from donors from law firms, universities, and women’s issues groups.
During his 2010 campaign and since he took office, Brown has assumed a moderate tone, especially on social issues in this liberal state, where the viability of socially conservative candidates is questionable at best. His campaign has tried to portray Warren as a radical liberal who is out touch with voters, while Warren has campaigned on a platform of championing middle class causes and cracking down on Wall Street, which her campaign says supports Brown because he does the bidding of major financial institutions.
The next debate is October 1 at UMass Lowell’s Tsongas Center, followed by an October 10, debate at Springfield Symphony Hall. The fourth and final debate is on October 30.