Daniel Doherty

Tonight at 7:00 PM Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) will face off against Democratic Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren at the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Tsongas arena. Before we dive into the optics of the race -- and explore what to expect -- two polls dropped over the last twenty-four hours that are worth noting. Conducted by two seemingly reputable pollsters, the Boston Globe and WBUR/MassINC, the surveys show Elizabeth Warren edging the incumbent by four and five percentage points, respectively. The latter, however, marks the seventh of nine polls this month indicating the Harvard law professor is ahead. That said, both are within each respective survey’s margin of error but according to the Globe’s findings, 18 percent of Bay State voters are still undecided. In other words, this race is very much up for grabs, which perhaps explains why nearly 5,000 people are expected to attend tonight’s showdown.

One significant challenge that Scott Brown still faces is the fact that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney currently trails President Obama by 27 percentage points in Massachusetts. Thus, considering there are three times as many registered Democrats than Republicans in the Bay State, convincing a plurality of the electorate to split their votes between Barack Obama and the incumbent Senator is a rather difficult task. In short, I think it’s imperative Scott Brown speaks directly to voters this evening and explains why, exactly, he is the most qualified, dependable and trustworthy candidate running for office. Expect him to remind those watching that, among other things, he is the second most bipartisan lawmakers in the Senate -- “an independent voice for Massachusetts” -- and that his opponent is a liberal ideologue who would be disinclined (or unwilling) to work with Senate Republicans if elected.

Incidentally, as Guy noted last week, Team Brown has also been hammering the Democratic hopeful recently for helping a former industrial conglomeration -- LTV Steel -- invalidate a congressional mandate ordering the company to subsidize health insurance for its retired blue-collar workers. This revelation undermines her image as “middle class” candidate -- which, of course, along with her now debunked ancestral claims -- raises serious questions about her character and integrity. I anticipate both these topics will be part of the discussion tonight.

On the other hand, I suspect Ms. Warren’s most effective line of criticism this evening (besides relentlessly attacking the Senator’s voting record) will be tying Scott Brown to the Republican Party. After all, the conservative wing of the GOP is deeply unpopular in Massachusetts, as evidenced by the fact that Mitt Romney (who served as the state’s chief executive for four years) is trailing President Obama by double digits. What’s more, since the last debate, GOP operative Karl Rove has thrown his SuperPAC’s proverbial hat (and resources) into the horse race, sponsoring a phone call campaign on behalf of the Senator. This will likely fit nicely into Warren’s neatly crafted narrative that Scott Brown carries water for the Republican Party.

A significant challenge she faces, however, is parlaying charges of hypocrisy and ethnical wrongdoing. Within the first few minutes of the previous debate, for example, Senate Brown assailed her for refusing to release her personal records and doubling down on her factually inaccurate assertions that she is in fact Native American. Will she be able to effectively defend her record and deflect the criticism convincingly without sounding overly desperate or disingenuous? We’ll know by the end of the night

In any event, the debate will air tonight online at Boston.com/BostonGlobe.com and will be moderated by NBC’s David Gregory.

You won’t want to miss it -- and don’t forget to stay tuned for our comprehensive wrap-up afterwards.


Daniel Doherty

Daniel Doherty is Townhall's Deputy News Editor. Follow him on Twitter @danpdoherty.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography