Brown Does Slightly Better Than Warren In Debate, But Not Enough To Change The Race

Wednesday’s debate was fairly even, but I’d give a slight edge to Sen. Scott Brown. I’d score it as similar to the latest WBUR poll — Brown 47 percent to Elizabeth Warren’s 43 percent.

Ardent Warren fans no doubt saw it differently. They enjoy her earnest, lecturing style, and probably wouldn’t suggest that she change a thing. So she doesn’t.

On most of the 10 criteria in my new do-it-yourself debate scorecard, it was a draw.

CLOSING — Who made the most favorable last impression?

DRAW. Brown delivered a solid closing, but the only new wrinkle was his saying that his voting record was much more bipartisan than the Senate Republican, Richard Lugar, who Warren had named as someone she could work with, if elected. Warren closed by talking about her drive out to Springfield, and then swerved from theme to theme.

SOUNDBITES — Who had the most quotable, compelling lines?

BROWN. Brown made a strong populist argument about struggles of the middle class. He argued against raising taxes during a recession, warning that the federal government and special interests had an insatiable appetite: “They’re like pigs in a trough up there, who will take and take and take.”

CONVICTION — Who spoke more genuinely and passionately about their issues?

WARREN. Warren seemed agitated at times, and her body language was odd — staccato gestures, and finishing statements with a head nod. But she was assertive and confident. Her supporters were enthusiastic about her charging that Brown “was not there for women” on certain bills. Brown was steady, but a little subdued. That worked in his favor when Warren fans in the audience booed him at one point.

CONTROL — Who kept the opponent on the defensive most effectively?

DRAW. On health care, it was even. Same on taxes. Brown zinged Warren on helping drive up the cost of higher education by being paid $350,000 to teach one class at Harvard Law School, receiving a 0 percent interest loan and free housing. Brown knocked Warren for claiming to be a champion of the middle class but was paid large fees by big corporations, like Dow Chemical, and having her campaign directed by lobbyist Doug Rubin. Warren attacked Brown for being Republican, against raising taxes on the rich and insufficiently pro-women.

NEWSWORTHY — Who said something new and worthy to generate publicity?

WARREN. Her criticism of Brown on women’s issues might have been her first solid punch in the debates, so it will probably get more play in news coverage.

MISTAKES — Who was best in avoiding gaffes and factual errors?

DRAW. Warren said, “I’m proud to be from Massachusetts again.” That wasn’t really a gaffe, but it unintentionally reminded voters she previously lived in Oklahoma and Washington, D.C. Brown erred in saying “Cadillac tax plans” instead of “health plans.” Overall, there didn’t seem to be a glaring mistake that should hurt either candidate.

CONNECTION — Who was better in relating to folks watching at home?

BROWN. Brown sounded genuinely concerned when speaking about the problems of the middle class, recounting his early days in fighting to keep property taxes down. Warren sounded like she was trying too hard with scripted lines. As Bill Clinton would say, she didn’t seem like she felt your pain — unless you were a college student loaded with debt.

STRATEGY — Who best fulfilled his/her strategy (Brown wants to focus on character and bipartisanship; Warren focuses on liberal policies and party control of the Senate)?

DRAW. Brown depicted Warren as hypocritical — for making a lot of money as a lawyer for big corporations, and for profiting from 0 percent loans and free housing from Harvard, while claiming to be a champion of the middle class. Warren framed Brown as too beholden to the GOP, Mitt Romney and millionaire donors.

EXPECTATIONS — Who did better than expected — better than the previous debate?

DRAW. Brown was better than in the first debate, but not as persuasive as in the second. Warren was not as impressive as in the first debate, but better than in the second.

POLLS — Who do you think will get a bounce in polls as a result of the debate?

DRAW. The broadcast audience for the western Massachusetts debate probably wasn’t very big. And there were no great revelations, so the dynamic of the race shouldn’t have changed much.

Interestingly, the first presidential debate probably had far more impact on this Senate race than this Senate debate. Warren had been riding President Obama’s coattails and moving ahead of Brown in the polls as a result of the president’s popularity. But with Romney’s unexpected win in the debate, Obama’s coattails have shrunk and Brown looks stronger.

The next Senate debate, on Oct. 30, could be pivotal. After that one, we won’t hear either candidate say what Obama said about his first debate: “I was just too polite.”

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

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  • Pam

    Brown did NOT do even slightly better than Warren.Brown was unprepared to speak intelligently.so he relied on repetition of out-of-context statements such as I’m bipartisan.He resorted to lies re taxes,seemingly borrowed from Romney’s lies.
    Warren was articulate and  focused-like a professional rather than a deceptive opportunist.

    • razorfish

      With respect to taxes, what do you think Brown lied about?

    • razorfish

      Both candidates frequently repeated their respective policy inclinations; Warren, at least twice tonight, worked her well-worn theme about the middle class getting “hammered.” Brown emphasized, as he has previously, that he won’t raise taxes on anyone. I think it makes sense for both candidates to use repetition for emphasis. You seem to be enchanted by Warren’s repeated themes and irritated by Brown’s. Also, what’s “out-of-context” about Brown’s assertions of bipartisanship? Isn’t his demonstrated bipartisanship pertinent in this Senate contest?

      • $$$

        it’s a vote that the GOP really cares about, Scott Brown is a
        Republican. When it’s not a close vote or an issue deemed less important
        by the GOP, Brown crosses party lines to bolster his record so he can claim bipartisanship. Not to mention his voting
        tendencies changed dramatically once he realized he had a competent challenger. If he’s going to claim to be an Independent, why doesn’t he just drop the (R) from next to his name? Oh yeah, he needs that $$$ to win.

  • Sinclair2

    Factor in Mr. Domke’s Republican bias as a subtraction when he states that Brown did slightly better and you have Warren as the winner.

    Mr. Domke described Ms. Warren’s speaking as a “lecturing style”.  I say don’t all politicians and teachers have a lecturing style?  Scott Brown’s style comes off as a bullying know-it-all who comes from the streets and who thinks in stereotypes.  Like Ray Flynn, he’s not much of a thinker.  Flynn chased fire trucks so he could appear in the news.  Brown chased local news stories for the same reasons.

  • Klink1

    What are you smoking Pam?  Scott crushed the Chief!  Women of the people – Huh.  350K for one course!  Interest free loan!!  Corporate shill for Travelers on Abestos Claim!!!!

    • jefe68

      The question I have for you is can you think in complete sentences?
      Because your argument is getting lost in the right wing bumper sticker rhetoric.

      • Kadzimiel

        And, as one expects from teabaggers, lies, obvious lies and delusions.

  • Carol Ott

    I didn’t think Brown did better at all.  He seems nervous and edgy.  But OMG.  Brown said flat out he would allow every resident of MASS to have tax increases before allowing the Bush Tax Cuts to expire. That makes it pretty clear where his priorities lie and that is with Grover Norquist.

    I have watched Warren take on Congress and she does not back down when she is fighting for people. But I would be very nervous knowing that the Republican Party is very anxious to toss out Medicare and there’s also talk of privatizing Social Security. We all know he would vote with his Party.

    But what’s his hang-up over how much money she makes?  When these new Senators were voted in two years ago, they said they would work 2 weeks out of a month.  That must mean they are on the Senate floor perhaps 10 hours a month and the rest of the time sitting in their offices campaigning for money and talking with lobbyists and making deals and they make some decent money themselves. Sounds to me as he is a bit jealous over her success.  She has worked for what she makes and has been working 30 years.  Earned!

  • Klink1

    Fauxahantus, the inspiration for Occupy and the 99%, is in the 1/10th of 1%!!!!  Perhaps her Tepee is in Roxbury or Revere.  No way!  The Fake Indian is a HYPOCRITE. 

    • Kadzimiel

      Save the dishonesty and racism for the next teabaggers for Scotty meeting.  Maybe they are dumb enough to fall for it.

  • Kadzimiel

    Brown looked unconvincing in the extreme – and the audience obviously wasn’t too impressed by him. A clear win for Warren.  Time to send Mitt Romney in a barncoat back to whichever of his four homes he currently lives in.

  • Brendan Myers

    “Brown . . . argued against raising taxes during a recession”

    Which might be an interesting point if we were, you know, in a recession.

    • Sinclair2

      Wealthy people are NOT in a recession.

    • Andrew Crossman

      How can you say we are not in a recession? How can you be that out of touch with reality. You may be well off but most of us aren’t.

      • Brendan Myers

        The word “recession” is an economic term, defined as two or more consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. That’s how I can say we’re not in a recession. Senator Brown is being disingenuous when he says we are in a “3 1/2 year recession.” It is a blatant falsehood.

        • J__o__h__n

          And it started more than 3 1/2 years ago (under Bush).

  • elewisg39

    This moderator was the best asking pertinent and challenging questions.

    Warren’s logic about Elena Kagan was ludicrous
    “Kagan is pro choice.   Brown voted against her confirmation
    So Brown is not pro-choice”

    Might there be other reasons to vote against Kagan

    Brown needs to clarify how he would reduce the deficit
    We need chapter and verse.

    Brown is a true believer
    Warren is scripted by her pollsters


    • durham kid

      Yes, there are a number of reasons that Brown might have voted against Kagan; however, this is what BOTH sides say in politics – sometimes even when batiing people to vote a certain way so they can say that they did.

      And your  final line is simply your opinion.  I think Brown is the best Republican out there – but that is not saying much at all.

      If the best Brown can do is attack Warrens’ ethnicity and her work as a lawyer with an asbestos firm (a more solid attack though I understand she has an ad showing some of the plaintiffs who were happy with their settlement), he does not have a lot to stand on.

    • J__o__h__n

      Maybe supposedly pro-choice Brown voted against Kagan because she isn’t like his ideal Justice Scalia. 

  • Tiffany Campbell

    Not sure how you can say that Brown connected more with People at home. I found his tone to be terribly condescending. I do not need to be talked down to.  To me he comes off as terribly fake and staged. I have a hard time believing anything he says. I feel like I am being sold snake oil.

  • LeonardNicodemo

    I caught the first half-hour on the radio, and to me it sounded like Warren crushed him. Maybe it changed after that.

  • B.A. Cowan

    Maybe you were watching a different debate. Brown was inarticulate, repetitive , and backpedaling. He was constantly making excuses for his votes instead of presenting a cogent position backed by actions in the past and plans for the future. His default position is to present himself as the abused kid making good and the good old boy. He should be concerned about all children, not just himself, and all women, not just his family members.

  • CL38

    “Brown made a strong populist argument about struggles of the middle class. He argued against raising taxes during a recession, warning that the federal government and special interests had an insatiable appetite: “They’re like pigs in a trough up there, who will take and take and take.”

    The job of the news media, especially one like WBUR, is not to repeat verbatim, Brown’s incorrect statements about who he is and what he’s done, but to ask TOUGH questions that expose lies and misinformation.  Especially in a year in which the Republican’s have consistently outright lied about so many issues.  WBUR has abandoned that responsibility.  Brown voted against 3 jobs bills and in favor of bills that benefited the wealthiest, at the expense of the middle class, exactly as Warren stated.  

    Covering campaigns in a “fair and balanced” way is not fair and balanced when one of the candidates lies about his record and is not called out.  Not challenging lies and misinformation is just not fair and balanced, as WBUR well knows.

    BTW, Brown did not ‘win’ the first debate and he certainly didn’t win this one!  In the first debate, he attacked Warren with false issues that had previously been debunked in Warren’s favor (Brown stated that Warren falsely claimed she was Native American and used her ethnicity to gain advantage in college and for employment.)  Brown used this false attack to deflect from discussing his own voting record in support of Republicans to protect the wealthy.  This false attack was something WBUR — and the moderator — completely failed to point out and stop.  

    Other opinions reflected by reader comments below also challenge the incorrect supposition that Brown won last night’s debate.

    Once again, WBUR greatly disappoints.   Will BUR  disappoint again for the last debate?

    Shame on WBUR.  You’ve caved in to Republican pressure.

    • Grogan

      Calling out candidates “lies” is not the duty of the moderator of the debate or of WBUR’s analysts.  This is the duty of the debater him/herself.  This ability to respond to the other debater, other country, other adversary is a characteristic people are looking for in a debater-president, senator, leader.  To expect the moderator last week to do Obama’s bidding seems to be the current meme for the Dems.  And now we’re hearing that moderators and journalists are supposed to catch things that Democrats miss “live” and didn’t respond to themselves. To help out. When Dems lie, and guess what – they do, I guess it’s nobody’s duty to chime in.

      What is disturbing most about this entry above is it seems to cry out for “WBUR to be WBUR for gosh sakes!”  Maybe WBUR is deciding it is more important to have journalistic integrity than to blatantly pull for the liberal candidate.

      This is an “opinion” piece. Go to Dan Payne’s entry if you can’t bear to hear something that doesn’t suit your biases.

      • CL38

        The media (which is now primarily Republican owned) used to take it’s responsibilities seriously to do credible, factual research, exposing lies and misinformation and for keeping people well-informed.  These days, we get a constant slate of outright lies and misinformation from the right, voter suppression and a primarily Republican slant to almost all media coverage.  The media is failing the American people, serving instead as a special interest supporter for the right.

        Same for moderators.  They used to be much better at following up with hard questions when candidates made false claims or repeated blatant lies.  Moderators should NOT be held hostage to GOP pressure or serving a Republican demand for “fair and balanced” reportage, meaning that every lie Republicans utter is presented, totally without challenge, as though it’s factual.

        BTW, most other opinions expressed here reflected that Brown did NOT win the debate.

        If you don’t like my opinion because it doesn’t parrot your own, that’s just too ….. bad.

    • razorfish

      Is Elizabeth Warren a Native American?

      • CL38

        Yes, she is, on her mother’s side, ancestry from two different tribes (can’t remember which two).

        • razorfish

          How do you know? She claims Cherokee and Delaware ancestry, but no census records, birth, death, or marriage records show anything but white ancestry. When her mother’s sister died, Warren herself, as deponent on her death certificate, listed her as white.

          • CL38

            Are you serious?  I suggest questioning Scott Brown about claiming to support the middle class and women, while his votes are 72% in support of the wealthy, corporations and Republicans and against the middle class and women.  

          • razorfish

            So, does your change of topic signify that you don’t really believe Elizabeth Warren is a Native American?

          • CL38

            MA, of course, believes that Warren is a Native American.

            So, does your change of topic signify that you, too, don’t want to talk about Brown’s voting record for the  corporate wealthy, rather than the middle class he CLAIMS to support????

        • razorfish

          How do you know?

  • CT

    Pretty much a crap article. I read it before I saw that this was a Republican analyst and was surprised at how ridiculously biased it was.

  • Gtwalsh01

    Was I watching the same debate? This analysis is only slightly above absurd. Ms. Warren had the facts and presented them brilliantly. Senator Brown seemed to circle around justifying the policies he supports, aware that they are offensive to everyday citizens.   

  • Banannamom

    Heard Todd Domke this AM on WBUR. He is so partisan that he verbalized issues that Scott Brown did not even mention. It is not his job to campaign, but to offer objective analysis to both candidates. He should do the job he was hired to do.

  • ThirdWayForward

    Warren crushed Brown.

    Warren effectively  demolished Brown’s central argument,
    that he is an independent, and not a puppet of the national Republican party.

    The moderator, Jim Madigan, was far, far better than that pseudo-journalist scoundrel David Gregory, who “moderated” the last one. This debate stuck to the substantive  issues at hand (which are, decidedly , not Brown’s forte).

    Domke is just  trying to do damage control for his party, like any other political shill,
    but his apparent role here does not make him appear any less intellectually dishonest to the rest of us.

  • Dave Holzman

    C’mon Domke. Warren nailed Brown. 

    If you can claim Brown won, you’d probably claim that Obama won the first pres debate if you were a Democrat.

    • http://ifthethunderdontgetya.blogspot.com/ ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

      He’s their Republican analyst.

      “Liar” is right there in Domke’s job description.

      • razorfish

        All of You Guys Above: All you have to offer in countering Todd Domke’s piece is contempt and a vile insult. Why don’t you man up and make an argument? I think the debate was more or less a tie, but if I felt as passionate as you guys apparently do, I’d try to take Domke down with some kind of pointed rebuttal. All you guys offer is borderline hate speech.

        • CL38

          read all the comments and you’ll have credible rebuttal.

          • razorfish

            I don’t find any specific rebuttal to anything in Domke’s piece in any of these comments, just more poisonous rhetoric.

  • Dickz

    Domke – Give me a break.  Take your Republican glasses off for the next debate.   Dick Zajchowski, Shrewsbury MA

  • Sinclair2

    I just this moment received in the mail a large pamphlet from Scott Brown’s campaign.  This mailer is designed to TERRORIZE senior citizens and it’s nothing but a pack of lies. 

    Like a sociopath, this guy has nothing but ice water running through his veins, and  like Romney, he’ll say anything to win.  Just as one woman in a Warren ad who said he lied about the asbestos case where Warren helped the workers receive compensation, “he should be ashamed of himself!” 

  • Bluefishpatty

    Terorize, liar, sociopath, comtempt, shame, hate speech! Reactions to the Brown/Warren debate… The left trys to scare the seniors with rhetoric that maybe Goebbels would have used… I hope, these Seniors who fought, worked, saved and put their little piglets through the best schools they could afford, so they would have opportunities they didn’t…look at the left as fanatics.  America has had them before, the world has had them before…they go away and  they come back..like the tide…  somehow, the DDT of common sense, doing the right thing, and standing up for the future generation…pushes them back into the sea….

    • Sinclair2

      Brown is scaring seniors with his mailer and with lies that Goebbels would have used.  He’s exploiting their sense of fear.  Common sense is reacting to his unscrupulous and desparate tactics.  Protecting seniors with truth is NOT “hate speech”.

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