Previewing Round 3: Scott Brown vs. Elizabeth Warren in Western MA

Posted: Oct 10, 2012 12:11 PM

Tonight in Springfield, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown will debate U.S. Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren for the third time this election season. As we wrote last week, the previous sparring match between the two candidates was a decisive victory for the incumbent -- and, as it happens, drew nearly 500,000 viewers nationwide. Since that event, however, two new public opinion polls have surfaced -- conducted by Western New England University and WBUR/MASSINC, respectively -- suggesting that the horserace is still (unsurprisingly) locked in a virtual dead heat. But it is (indeed) worth noting -- and remembering -- that the latter survey is only one of a handful of polls taken in recent weeks showing the incumbent ahead. Finally. In any case, with less than a month to go before the people of Massachusetts cast their ballots -- I anticipate even more eyes will be fixated on tonight’s showdown than both parties are expecting

So what topics, my friends, will the candidates discuss this evening?

First of all, tonight’s debate will be the first (and only) event to take place in the western part of the state. And while the region is not disproportionately overloaded with registered Democrats (although in 2008 they showed up in droves) it was nevertheless one of the only regions in the state that voted decisively against Scott Brown in 2010. This is an excellent opportunity, then, for the Harvard law professor turned Senate hopeful to make her pitch to voters -- and explain why middle income families would benefit the most under her leadership. That said, if Senator Brown can chalk up another strong debate performance -- and make the case that Professor Warren’s economic policies will raise taxes on the middle class and hurt job creators -- he obviously has the most to gain.

Interestingly, by a 3 to 1 margin, the Massachusetts electorate believes the tone of the campaign is decidedly negative. And I’m not the least bit surprised. Nonetheless, I thoroughly expect -- and fervently hope -- that Mr. Brown will continue to hammer his opponent for “checking the box” -- that is, listing herself as an ethnic minority for nine years in a law school directory without a single shred of verifiable evidence or proof. Further, he’ll most likely double down (or at least remind those watching) that the former “consumer advocate” has a checkered history of representing unscrupulous corporations instead of the people she now purportedly claims to represent. Here is a recent (and devastating) campaign ad released by Team Brown last week:

And yet, there are still reportedly 200,000 Massachusettians out of work (many of whom live in the western part of the state). Therefore I suspect Elizabeth Warren will (once again) attack Scott Brown for voting against so-called “jobs” bills that would have supposedly brought opportunity and prosperity to the Bay State. Indeed, she’ll also remind viewers that the Republican Senator voted to preserve government subsidies for “big oil,” and perhaps serve up more boilerplate about how he cares more about Wall Street bankers than struggling working class families. Remember, too, this populist line of criticism can be absolutely devastating in a state that leans Democratic; a region of the country that is all-too-eager to send another Leftist to Washington. One hopes, then, that Mr. Brown is ready and prepared to parlay the onslaught of negative attacks headed his way.

Incidentally, one argument I’d personally like to see Scott Brown put to rest is the asinine notion that one should not vote for Scott Brown simply because -- if he does indeed win re-election -- the people of Massachusetts could in effect be responsible for giving Republicans a majority in the Senate. While this is to be expected in a deeply blue state, this line of argument is nevertheless fatuous and an exceedingly weak reason not to support a moderate candidate for federal office. In short, Brown needs to explain the reasons why (perhaps by invoking his track record of bipartisanship and cooperation) he is not beholden to any political leader or party, and that his only basis for voting for or against a piece of legislation is whether or not it will benefit his constituents. On the other hand, he should unmercifully portray his challenger as a tax-and-spend liberal Democrat -- an ideologue for Senate who will support (or propose) fiscally irresponsible legislation that will adversely affect entrepreneurs, small businesses, and job creators in Massachusetts.

Tonight’s festivities will kick off tonight at 7:00 PM at Symphony Hall in Springfield, Mass. and will be moderated by Jim Madigan of WGBY-TV. As always, stay tuned afterwards for our full recap and analysis.

UPDATE - You can watch the debate on C-Span or live stream it here and here.