Brown Nervous And Snarky; Warren Confident And Tough

In law school, the worst sin you can commit as a freshman is to come to class unprepared. Scott Brown came very close to looking unprepared for Professor Warren’s class. He was tentative, smirked inappropriately, and often glanced down at his notes.

During their third debate Wednesday, Elizabeth Warren was much more at ease than Brown and more confident than in either of their first two encounters. Facing no Native American questions, she went after Brown on every question. She scored on his voting against three jobs bills, arguing that a Republican-controlled government would mean lower funding for public schools, and that he uses a study against her that came from a group that had called Ted Kennedy “public enemy number one.”

This race has a sizable gender gap and Warren exploited it in her best performance of the night, and possibly in the campaign. She said he had “one chance to support equal pay for equal work” and he voted no, “one chance to vote for insurance coverage for birth control and other health services for women” and he voted no, and “one chance to support a pro-choice woman from Massachusetts for the Supreme Court,” Elena Kagan, and he voted no.

Brown’s response was both snarky and irrelevant. He said he didn’t vote for Warren’s boss (Kagan) and said, as he does whenever the subject of women comes up, that he lives in a houseful of women. Warren, for the first time, spoke of her family, calling herself a mother and grandmother and referred mysteriously to “Bruce.”

An unsteady Brown said he agreed with Warren several times and congratulated her on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau she helped create, but took credit for passage of the Dodd-Frank law that regulates the behavior of Wall Street and big banks. That boast was met with boos.

Brown seemed eager to establish three things: that he could name and had visited every military base, restaurant and politician west of Route 495. He has been a selectman, assessor, state senator and U.S. Senator, in other words, he’s a lifelong pol. And that he seems to be most confident talking about being a career military man who spends a lot of time visiting bases in the state.

Brown backed off his earlier frequent and snide use of “Professor Warren,” but seemed to say in a poorly worded charge that the rising cost of higher education was Warren’s fault because of her high salary at Harvard Law School. This is a state with 200 universities, colleges and community colleges, with 128,000 faculty and almost 525,000 enrolled students. Brown was playing with political fire in attacking a member of a major Massachusetts industry, especially in a debate near many college towns in the western part of the state.

Brown’s message was simplistically, “I’m not going to raise taxes on anyone in Massachusetts or the country.” He underscored his point by noting that he signed the no-taxes-ever pledge of notorious hard-line D.C. lobbyist Grover Norquist. After Warren mentioned lobbyists, Brown zinged her for employing as her chief strategist, Doug Rubin, calling him “Massachusetts premier lobbyist.”

For reasons known only to Warren and her campaign, she once again failed to link Brown to Mitt Romney, whose name was spoken only once — by Warren. Similarly, she did not hammer Brown consistently on what his election will mean to the makeup of the U.S. Senate, namely make it more likely to be controlled by the GOP.

The debate was carried live in eastern Massachusetts only by WBUR-FM and New England Cable News. With a modest audience, it’s unlikely the debate moved the needle on the polling scale. Warren may have won, but not many voters saw it.

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

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  • Hachface

    Fire Domke and Payne. They are partisan shills. Their commentary is never enlightening; they are obviously herr to carry water for their own team. WBUR needs analysts who are both nonpartisan and unafraid to tell the truth without resorting to false equivalency.

    • John_of_Medford28

      Sadly, I have become more disappointed with their political analysis as time goes on.  I am not surprised at all with the current state of their political analysis.  It is used to be consistently good and enlightening. I believe Payne and Domke are usually at their best with analysis in first debates and this is when their partisan shilling is at its lowest.  However, I find in subsequent debates, their obvious partisan leanings and shilling are much more apparent.  Not very surprising, given what passes as political coverage and analysis in this country.  In my opinion, it is very poor and obvious. I will say that Payne and Domke are still a little bit better than most on what is out there. 

      But like you, I wish WBUR would find analysts who are both truly nonpartisan and unafraid to tell the truth without resorting to the crutch of  political analysis, which is false equivalency.  Although, I’m not holding my breath on this is as ever happening. 

      Hey, WBUR, be brave and do this, you might be pleased surprised that you might get a lot more response to your many fundraisers through the year.

      • durham kid

        I can’t speak directly to the charges of partisanship of  Payne and Domke b/c I missed the debate last night; however, ‘BUR may be in the position that many media outlets are in these days: the electorate is SO polarized that if you so much as expose their candidate for being incompetent, they call you partisan.

        For example (and I will reveal my political leanings here), think of Katie Couric and Sarah Palin.   That was an example of Katie Couric doing an excellent job as a news person – following up on statements that Gov Palin made, exposing how unprepared she was for national office.

        I hope that, even if you were a supporter of McCain/Palin, you agree with the accuracy of what I have written.

        When my candidate messes up in a debate or interview, I cringe – but I do not blame the format or interviewer.

        I think our lack of ability to self-reflect is part of this same issue – and results in greater polarization.

    • Katiemaine

      Were you trying to say “heir” when you said “herr”?  Do you not know how to spell or are you just so angry that you lash out at everything you hear on WBUR?  They are not supposed to be non-partisan, that’s why there is one who is a member of the GOP and one who is a Dem.

  • 1alaser94

    Millionaires, and Billioniares, and Big Oil OH MY.


    • durham kid

       Oops! I hit the ‘like’ button again – DEFINITELY a mistake!!

      We have a weak economy.  The wealthy, including Big Oil, do not need assistance.  The poor are not all welfare cheats – many are senior citizens and the working poor.

      What do you say to that?

      • CL38

        I agree with your assessment, but would say that poor people are very rarely welfare cheats.

  • cgallaway2000

    I would think that Warren and her campaign didn’t link Brown to Mitt Romney is because the race for the senate seat is between Warren and Brown, not Warren and Romney.

  • 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!”

  • Campbell

    The main reason the debate was not widely carried is that eastern MA doesn’t think anything in western MA matters. Not even a debate of the 2 people running for Senate.

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