Not-So-Great Expectations For Next Brown-Warren Debate

Sen. Scott Brown shakes hands with his Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren before their first debate on Thursday, Sept. 20. (AP)

Sen. Scott Brown shakes hands with his Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren before their first debate on Thursday, Sept. 20. (AP)

What should we expect for the second debate between Sen. Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren on Monday?

Questions: How will Brown raise doubts about his opponent’s character without hurting his “nice guy” image? How will Warren rebut the criticism and go on the offensive?

Contrast: Brown will try to frame the choice on two issues: integrity and independence. Warren will try to focus the debate on two different issues: Romney and Republican.

Strategy: Brown will criticize, question and mock Warren because he wants this debate to ratchet up the controversy. He’s running an aggressive challenger-style campaign because he realizes that as a Republican in Massachusetts he needs to convince more than 20 percent of Obama supporters to see him as an independent, bipartisan, effective senator.

Warren doesn’t want this debate to ignite controversy about personality and character because that would mean Brown is seen as an individual, not a typical Republican pol. She wants the senate race to mirror the presidential contest: Obama/Democrat vs. Romney/Republican.

Goal: Brown wants to force Warren to make a mistake on a character issue so he can keep her on the defensive and win more independents. (Independents tend to vote based on issues like trustworthiness and leadership more than party or ideology). Warren wants to turn personal attacks by Brown into a character issue of her own, suggesting he’s mean and desperate, and she wants to put him on the defensive for being a Republican.

Issues: Each candidate will try to tie issues to their theme, and each theme begins with “C.” For Brown, it’s Character (he wants voters to doubt and distrust his opponent). For Warren, it’s Control (which party should control the senate).

Brown wants to discuss Warren claiming to be 1/32 Cherokee, that she doesn’t have a license to practice law in Massachusetts, and makes over $300,000 for teaching one class at Harvard Law. Warren wants to talk about Romney’s “47 percent” remarks, tax loopholes for the rich, and Paul Ryan’s proposed cuts in the federal budget.

Attacks: Each candidate will try to deflate the opponent. Brown might say something like this about Warren: “You keep saying ‘working middle class families’ but you and your husband struggle to get by on $700,000 from Harvard. I know the cost-of-living is high in Cambridge, but do you really think you are a working middle-class family?”

Warren didn’t mention Romney in the first debate, but this time will say something like: “My opponent sounds like he barely knows Mitt Romney. Let me refresh your memory — he’s the guy who introduced you at your election night victory party, who put his people and money behind you, and who you endorsed for president before he even announced he was running. Ring any bells?”

Gaffes: If either candidate makes a gaffe, expect to see it in a TV spot distributed to the news media the next day.

Humor: Candidates often try to defuse attacks with humor. Brown can expect to be asked about supporters and a staffer going to a Warren rally to mock her with supposed Indian style war whoops and tomahawk chop gestures. He might say, in advance of seriously condemning their antics: “I have made clear there is no place for such conduct. We don’t want any fans of the Atlanta Braves acting foolishly in Red Sox Nation.”

Warren might be asked about Brown saying in the first debate, “Professor Warren claimed that she was a Native American, a person of color, and as you can see, she’s not.” She can criticize his judging someone’s race and ethnicity from appearance, but she might also make a sly allusion to it on other issues. “Funny, you don’t look bipartisan. Oh, excuse me, I mean, your voting record doesn’t.”

Aftermath: Don’t be surprised if the debate continues right after the debate. Brown will probably be available to reporters to press Warren to answer any questions he believes she failed to adequately address in the debate. Warren would likely follow suit; her advisers would not want Brown’s post-debate attacks to go unanswered.

Predictions: Brown will not be wearing cowboy boots to highlight the issue of ethnic heritage. And Warren will not be wearing a barn jacket to demonstrate she’s a populist. Other than that, expect something unpredictable.

Todd Domke is WBUR’s Republican analyst. For more political commentary, go to our Payne & Domke page.

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  • Doesgovernmentcare

    It’s very simple, Brown says “He’s for us”. If that’s true why does he support almost everything the Republicans in the Senate do, including voting against job creation the President has proposed and taxing the wealthy at a higher rate? It’s obvious to anyone who thinks about it  -Scott Brown is for the WEALTHY (the 1%). ELIZABETH WARREN is wealthy but is for the middle class and the less fortunate. That’s why as a life-long Republican, I am voting for Elizabeth Warren.

    • Guest

      In this day and age, it’s most important to vote for someone who will not hesitate to cross party lines, and you definitely won’t get that with Warren.  She’ll make the gridlock  in Washington all the worse by digging her heels firmly into the left-most position on every single issue, regardless of whether it might benefit Massachusetts or the US as a whole to consider….gasp…siding with the right once in a blue moon.

      • comment

         “Crossing Party Lines” is simply a sound bite, but what does that mean? Does that mean that Republican Scott Brown speaks out proposing legislation that will support those issues that the people of Massachusetts care about … or does that mean that as a junior member of the Republican caucus Brown will be ALLOWED to vote against the Republican wave of anti women, anti small business, anti Medicare and Medicaid, anti postal service and other government safety nets, anti infrastructure, anti student loans, anti progress on global warming, racial discrimination, anti diversity in Supreme Court nominations like Elana Kagan,…..etc….legislation only when his vote is not needed or when it is politically needed for  Brown to win in the next election cycle 2012…and scarey yet 2018!

        Brown is actually an unknown. We don’t know how he will vote for the next SIX years.

        Scott Brown is simply ineffective.

        Elizabeth Warren has an established record of being fair minded, speaking and acting on those issues that are so important to the people of the Commonwealth. She has the true record of being an independent voice.

      • Sinclair2

        Reaching across the aisle to vote and agree wtih the extreme right is not in the best interests of this country.  The right have been dedicated toward causing the president to completely fail and to dismantle this country.   Anyone who happens to be a moderate Democrat looks like an extreme lefty in the current political climate.

        Brown’s strategy is too appear like he’s in the middle in order to win votes from a heavily Democratic state.  Just like Romney, he’ll say just about anything to win.  His Pinnochio meter has exceeded it’s length inciting his staff to do a racist tomahawk jig on camera while inspiring asbestos workers to defend Elizabeth Warren.  The Massachusetts Bar of Overseers also issued a statement which claimed she is not breaking any rules in terms of “practicing law”.

        Brown’s campaign is inspiring people who will work against him and that is in the best interests for everyone

    • Jwstyche

      I doubt that you are a life long Republican.  Warren has fought for a steel company to deny benefits to coal miners that worked in a coal mine the comapany owned.  She also fought for an insurance company to deny benefits for a person with Asbestosis, she makes 300 large a year for teaching one class and crys about tuition being so expensive, and she says she is for the little guy?  She claims to be 1 32nd Cherrokee which she is not.  She says she recieved nothing for that, except she has a 300k job because she did.  She also claimed she ws the first woman to take the bar exam while breastfeeding.  Really?  How does she know that?  Then there is the fact that she was practicing law from Ma.  while not being licensed to practice law by Ma in the above cases. Now she has resigned her law license from NJ.  Why?  Well you can’t discipline someone when you are not a member of the bar in that state can you.  Give me a break.  She is nothing but an elitist, political opportunist and a liar. 

      • Sinclair2

        Everything you have written has been proven to be bogus.  You need to keep up with the latest news.   Either you believe blindly Scott Brown’s desperate propaganda (lies) or you’re just trying to propagate his lies.

        Warren’s legal involvement in both the LTV and insurance (asbestos) cases was to tap her abilities to help wade through the complexities of the settlement for the affected workers and not to defend the companies.  The day after the debate, the asbestos workers came to her defense and demonstrated at Brown’s campaign headquarters.

        Google the Mass. Bar and check out their statement claiming that her NOT having a Mass. license is NOT an issue.

        Elitist?  Daughter of a truck driver from Oklahoma who went to state schools?  Why are Republicans such liars who attract a disproportionate amount of rednecks for a following?

        • Jim

          I would have to say that she said her dad was a janitor.  Her words.  One need not be born a blueblood to become an elitist.   They are made everyday by the academic community that Warren is a part of.  They are insulated by tenure and in her case outrageous compensation for teaching  one class.  Compare that to having a mother on welfare and that childhood.  Don’t believe for one second that Scott Brown doesn’t know what it is to be in need.  Also don’t believe the head of the Mass Bar.  They are after all a bit partisan.  Trail lawyers being democrat supporters and all and all.  That matter if need be will be decided by a judge. 

          • Sinclair2

            You’re stereotyping arguments are all based on your cynical attitude toward the academic community.  This is not exactly critical thought and analysis. 

            Republican Bill Weld, as well as many others (Republicans),  has given millions to Harvard, therefore one could argue that he’s contributing to an elitist system that pays “outrageous compensation” to professors who teach one class.  The right wing Koch brothers have given millions to MIT, including buildings, in additiion to supporting the Lincoln Center, The (“elitist”) Metropolitan Opera and the (“elitist”) arts community with their millions.  Oh my, my and many of MIT’s professors are tenured.

            Yes, her father was a janitor and also a truck driver; any work he could find to feed his family.  Maybe she should have said he was “unskilled labor” to lower your suspicions.  Her point is she had to work for everything she has (just as Scott Brown did) and she’s not afraid to look back at her humble roots and her loving family.   Brown astutely merchandised his life by looking back through a best selling book which earned hundreds of thousands of dollars and attracted sympathetic voters.

            Scott Brown’s family was on welfare for less than a year.  His stepfather also won a million or so in the Mass. Lottery and he built a new home.  Welfare was not his problem.  He was caught in a dysfunctional family life.  Discussing both candidates’ family lives are a distraction from the campaign and Brown knows it.

            Her compensation was decided by her employer and is a mute point.  Scott Brown’s daughter is enrolled in his health insurance plan extension, a plan he opposes politically.  Imagine if the tables were turned?

            Brown’s law experience amounts to nothing but part-time real estate transactions  -  passing papers.  His JAG experience amounts to two days per month with the National Guard.   No wonder his ad hominum strategy is to distract from the real issues while he runs against a highly skilled and nationally prominent Harvard law professor.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Boy-Bib/100003293916830 Boy Bib

    Brown is contemptible race baiting PIG

  • captnboston

    This should be a very simple choice for Massachusetts residents. You have Scott Brown, who is “one of us” and focused on us, the people of this state.

    Elizabeth Warren has never run for public office, she was hand picked to run for senate by the DNC. Other very popular Massachusetts Democrats like Tom Conroy and Marisa DeFranco were forced out to assure that Elizabeth Warren was never questioned by anyone in her party.

    Make your choice:

    1.) A DNC anointed Senator Warren with a national agenda (May or may not be good for Massachusetts)


    2.) A longtime moderate Republican in Scott Brown, who has proven his bi-partisanship and whoever wins the presidency he’ll be looking out for Massachusetts.

    As a post-script. If Warren loses, you will be likely to see her appointed to John Kerry’s seat when he is selected as Secretary of State. So choose Brown and you’ll still get Warren, very simple.

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