LOWELL, Massachusetts — Make no mistake: Elizabeth Warren won Monday night's debate, as she and Senator Scott Brown squared off for the second time on Monday night in Lowell in the race for U.S. Senate.
The first debate was held in a television studio without a live audience but Monday's event was a very different atmosphere, as the Tsongas Center sold out all 5,700 tickets available. The debate was moderated by David Gregory, host of Meet the Press who asked the audience beforehand to hold their applause for the end, but to no avail.
Warren and Brown traded barbs for approximately 55 minutes, with Warren slamming Brown for his opposition to the DREAM Act, and for his vote against extending the Bush tax cuts for all but the top 2% of income earner. Warren said the senator was holding 98% of Americans hostage to secure tax breaks the wealthy. Brown, meanwhile, was able to come out guns blazing on Warren's alleged Native American heritage, as Gregory's first question of the night was spent asking Warren about it. Brown has been unrelenting in his position that Warren's questionable claims about her ancestry speak to her a character — a narrative the Brown campaign has been pressing. Brown also hit Warren for her work as a lawyer for Traveler's insurance, which successfully fought off a class action lawsuit by asbestos victims while they were a client of Warren's. The senator said that the lawsuit showed that Warren is not the fighter for the middle class she says she is.
Brown chided Warren at one point when his challenger tried to interrupt him. "Excuse me, I’m not a student in your classroom," prompting applause from supporters in the audience.
Toward the tail-end debate, Brown was asked by Gregory who his "model" Supreme Court justice is, to which he answered, "Justice Scalia" — a notoriously conservative judge — prompting audible gasps from the audience (and the press room). Realizing his blunder, Brown went on to name Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts, and Sonia Sotomayor, who is one of the court's more liberal judges. Brown has tried to portray himself as a bipartisan senator who reaches across the aisle, but his naming of Scalia will be a problem for him going forward. Upon hearing Brown's response, a split-screen shot caught Warren smiling, as she realized Brown's misstep.
"That was shocking," Congressman Barney Frank told PolicyMic about Brown's first choice. Scalia, he said, is "the most right-wing vicious, homophobic guy, and then [Brown] realized that was a problem, and he tried to cover it up."
Brown said in this debate, as he did in the first, that he is one of the most bipartisan senators, and has been able to work with Democrats to troubleshoot legislative gridlock. At one point, Gregory pointed out that one Brown ad shows him with president Obama, but not with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who Brown has endorsed. The audience applauded Gregory's question, which Brown used to pivot to say, "When the president does something well I praise him."
“I have a history of working across the aisle,” Brown said. “I take great pride in that independence.”