As the third debate between Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren and Republican incumbent Senator Scott Brown begins, the contenders remain neck-and-neck in the polls. So far, neither candidate has clearly won the debate – although Senator Brown set a model for talking over a lackluster moderator that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney appeared to follow in his own first debate against President Obama last Wednesday.
In the last Warren-Brown exchange, moderator and Meet the Press host David Gregory pursued the same line of character debate questions and mudslinging favored in the first debate, leaving policy questions to a pair of UMass Lowell students who raised economic and immigration issues. But at least Gregory didn’t earn his own fake Twitter handle in the process.
Wednesday's debate takes place at Springfield Symphony Hall. This is the third of four debate opportunities for the two candidates to open more substantive ground between them, and although viewers can expect some repeats of the jabs on Brown’s voting record and Warren’s family background, I'm hoping for something different, if only so she doesn’t get distracted by something more interesting - like soup, or tomorrow’s weather.
Tune in to your local Boston news to watch the debate live at 7pm Eastern or watch online via C-SPAN. Follow up-to-the-second commentary with me @caitlinhowarth #MASen or #MASenDebate, and send me your comments and questions. Think you’re the next @pourmecoffee? Bring the funny and I’ll RT. No drinking games for me though, or the tweeting gets a little hazardous.
PolicyMic will be covering all the events and speeches during the Warren-Brown debate live. For live updates bookmark and refresh this page.
7:05 | Today's questions were submitted by the public; the audience has agreed to be silent, a change-up from the raucousness of the last debate. First question focuses on the MA unemployment rate; unemployment in Springfield and nearby Holyoke is at 11 percent.
7:15 | No one can accuse this debate of being light on substance, at least not from the moderator (or the public that submitted the questions). Fact-checkers are lighting up the #MAsendebate thread as the candidates exchange stats on health care, jobs, taxes and higher education.
7:30 | The back-and-forth on the federal budget, deficit and taxes relies on two premises: a) whether you're a Keynesian or not and b) whether you took macro econ 101. Here's a few basics on the difference between the debt and the deficit.
7:45 | The Warren pushback on voting record hasn't hit as hard as Brown's attacks on her background - until now. The exchange on women's rights has highlighted both a very compelling personal part of Senator Brown's life and a series of point-by-point pushbacks on his record. Warren came out the winner in that exchange - not because she's a woman, but because she simply didn't let him off the hook for putting his vote where his values are.
7:47 | A short foray into foreign affairs has finally made its way into these debates, particularly critical considering the important role Congress plays on these issues (and Senators in particular). Brown is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Airland, a subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee. (Note: That's not the same thing as being the main committee's ranking member, which would be a pretty big deal for any junior senator. The Armed Services Committee's ranking member is Senator John McCain.)
Closing Argument | Tonight's debate was a much-needed improvement not only from the previous two, but for any of this year's high-profile debates. In addition to a clear and consistent focus on substantive policy questions - if not a clear and consistent "no comment" policy for the audience - this debate highlighted some of the better parts of each candidate's platforms. Brown hammered Warren repeatedly on taxes; her counterposition was clearly stated, but may not have connected as clearly as the 'taxes bad' message usually does with voters. On women's rights, Warren's constant refrain about Brown's voting record truly hit home - in spite of the Senator's compelling story about domestic abuse in his own home. In many ways, and despite Brown's apparent liking for the idea that he's a RINO given the number of times he votes with Senate Democrats (which is really just my excuse to show my favorite political attack ad of all time), this was a debate about fundamental differences between progressive and conservative approaches to government. On taxes and federal debt (not the same thing as deficit, see above), health care, and foreign policy, the candidates showed that they do stand on principles shared with their respective parties. That might be a negative for Scott "Independent" Brown, but comes as no surprise to voters who first met Elizabeth Warren when she became the progressive left's most beloved candidate since Barack Obama circa 2008.
Where does that leave us? It's a wash, but not a negative one. Unless your primary issue was taxes or women's rights, tonight's debate was unlikely to persuade your undecided vote to move in either direction. But that's not bad news, because for the voters who heard their issues clearly and compellingly articulated tonight, turnout may improve. That's critical at this stage and no small win for the campaigns. Whether more women and seniors turn out for Warren, or men for Brown, should become clearer in the next round of polling - but the real key, again, isn't a stated preference. It's entirely about GOTV (get-out-the-vote) and where those demographics will make the biggest difference on election day.