On Thursday, Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren debated Republican incumbent Senator Scott Brown. Polls have placed the two opponents within striking distance of each other for months, although the latest poll by Suffolk University/7NEWS indicated that Warren leads Brown in likely voters with 48 percent to to Brown's 44 percent. Pundits and analysts, including the oft-cited Cook Report, rate the race a toss-up.
The debate was an opportunity for the two candidates to differentiate themselves and define their clear differences as leaders and as well as on policy. Warren went into the debate following a prime-time speech at the highly energized Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Some considered Brown at a disadvantage due to presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's disappointing convention appearance and tumultuous week following a series of public missteps following the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, including negative leaks by campaign insiders and a leaked tape from a private fundraiser. Brown will need to demonstrate that he is a unique candidate who should be judged on the basis of his performance in Congress and not maligned along with the top of the ticket.
Information on the next three debates:
Oct. 1, hosted by the University of Massachusetts-Lowell; Oct. 10, hosted at Springfield's Symphony Hall and broadcast live on several media outlets, including CBS-3 Springfield, ABC-40/Fox6, and on WFCR 88.5 FM; and Oct. 30, hosted by a Boston media consortium.
PolicyMic will be covering all the events and speeches during the Warren-Brown debate live. For live updates bookmark and refresh this page.
For the most up-to-the-second updates, follow #MASen #wbzdebate; I'm @caitlinhowarth w/ PolicyMic colleague @danfutrell following tonight's debate.
7:29pm | After a tough opening in which the moderator dispensed with opening statements and went straight to character issues, the debate has steadily unfolded with a series of aggressive attacks from Senator Brown and swift parries by challenger Elizabeth Warren. Brown's demeanor began with a full-throated attack on "Professor Warren's" character and heritage, a challenge Warren pushed back on by explaining how her family's history caused strife between her parents and grandparents. Brown, doubling down on the attack and proceeding with the same tone into economic policy, has appeared shaken at time with frequent pauses and stammers. Warren, whose tone evokes nothing so much as a thoughtful aunt, has been pushing back with a warm tone but iron strength viewers may recall from her days overseeing TARP and interrogating Wall Street executives. One thing is clear: while independent voters may need more to be persuaded to support either side, Warren's debate prep team is the early winner of tonight's exchange. She's been calm and articulate under pressure while Brown appears over-aggressive and occasionally flustered at her replies.
7:48pm | There's some disappointment from policy professionals on lack of details in plans presented by both sides in tonight's debate; the particulars haven't been spelled out, but any viewer can tell which talking points each side has prepped. That said, this debate began on character and that has set the tone for the entire event. This debate is defining wedges based on personal narratives; the most relevant facts have been on voting record, family history, and two personal visions for what the world should look like. Those numbers aren't sweeping figures on the federal budget or sequestration, but they may be far more relevant to persuadable voters.
7:50pm | Confused about the asbestos thing? It's mutual. The Boston Globe article about it is here, for background: http://bo.st/PZaYSL
7:55pm | At this point the candidates are both talking past each other in the way debates - especially tightly timed ones - can tend to do. Slightly wishing I were back at my alma mater where you got hissed for not directly addressing the opponent's arguments during a debate. (Haec olim meminisse iuvabit)
8:00pm | Post-game analysis time. In a debate that reeled from character questions to economic policy, voting records, and a smattering of genuinely local issues (gas pipeline, anyone?), incumbent Scott Brown appeared to be reeling as well with a series of stammered responses and struggles to deliver his key points. Both candidates racheted up their prepared scripts and pivoted more to their own stump speeches than to each other as the debate wore on after the commercial break. Not sure there's a crystal clear takeaway for independent voters tonight, but Brown's campaign manager certainly has one: get a new debate prep team.
I'm checking out the other PolicyMic live blogs by Michael Luciano and veteran Dan Futrell, whose question-by-question breakdown is well worth reading. Luciano seems to think Brown won tonight by virtue of sheer aggression; but for the women voters who make up a key swing demographic of this year's election - combined with a women's rights segment that Brown didn't fare so well in - I'm not so sure that's a safe bet. Brown may not have the worst record on women's rights, but after spending the last several months watching another Massachusetts moderate backpedal his record and his stance on the right to choose and many others, voters may not decide that Brown's conviction is something they can trust as his political aspirations climb.
The next big question: will we have another shot at a debate, or will Team Brown back out of future engagements? The second debate is scheduled for Oct 1 at UMass Lowell, where local boxing hero Micky Ward grew up. Ward rapidly withdrew an endorsement of Senator Brown after learning about the Senator's stances on gay marriage and unions; Ward told The Lowell Sun, “I found out Scott (Brown) is anti-union and I’m a Teamster guy. I found out he’s also against gay marriage, and I say if you love someone, you should have the same rights no matter who you are.”
We'll see if those topics come up next.