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U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and his Democratic rival, Elizabeth Warren, debated Monday night at the University of Massachusetts Lowell in front of an audience of thousands. It was an hour of parrying, jabs of humor and testiness.
In their first debate two weeks ago, Brown attacked out of the gate and Warren held her own. This second debate began as the last, with seven minutes about Warren's American Indian heritage. But she moved on and demonstrated humor. For instance, when moderator David Gregory, of NBC, asked her if it troubles her that Massachusetts has never elected a woman to the Senate, Warren said, "Well, right now, I'm trying to do something about that."
Warren learned to needle Brown and to do it with a light touch. For instance, here's the challenger when Brown said he had released a list of his law clients:
I haven't seen a list of Sen. Brown's clients. All I know is that Sen. Brown said at a press conference last week that somehow, over the last 25 years, while he's been out there working in the public interest and representing people here in Massachusetts, that he also was representing banks and mortgage companies, but I haven't seen a list of those clients and I didn't realize that it had been made public. Is that right, that there is a public list now of all the clients Sen. Brown had and the work he did for them?
Brown has not released a list of his clients. Just before the debate, Warren did release a list of 13 cases on which she worked from 1995 to 2009. Here's Brown:
Professor, with all due respect, the only person that's required to provide a list is you, when you actually have to provide it on a yearly basis to Harvard, and when asked if there was in fact a list, you said no, there is no list. Well, we find out that there is in fact a list, and apparently, she's released it tonight. I made it very clear last week. People know that I am real estate attorney. I have an office in my home. I represent a couple of small cooperative banks.
Brown came back to a line of questioning he used in the first debate: He brought up Warren's representation of Travelers Insurance Co. in a case in which Warren was seeking to establish a trust fund for victims of asbestos contamination.
"And if I had the chance, I would do it again," Warren said.
"Travelers Insurance Co. is not going to pay a quarter of a million dollars to Professor Warren to be a hired gun to work for the victims," Brown replied. "So that's laughable, let's get that right out."
"This was insurance company versus insurance company," Warren retorted. "Two insurance companies were fighting in the United States Supreme Court. If one of them won, then the asbestos victims would have a chance to get another half billion dollars in payments, and there would be a device to pay them over time."
Warren returned to a line of indictment she used in the first debate: Brown's voting record in the Senate. She presented it as one of repeatedly voting against initiatives she argues would have created jobs or helped the unemployed.
"If you're going to comment on my record, I would at least have you refer to it," Brown said.
Warren tried to interject.
"Excuse me, I'm not a student in your classroom, please let me respond, OK?" Brown told her, drawing groans, whistles and cheers from the audience. "With regard to the jobs bills, they were rejected in a bipartisan manner."
To show how bipartisan he is, Brown made a surprising announcement when asked if he would vote for Sen. Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, to lead Senate Republicans again. Brown said he is undecided.
As in their first debate, Warren seemed the more comfortable, the more poised, the more confident.
The two formidable candidates are locked in a tight race. There's two more debates to go.
This post was updated with the Morning Edition feature version.
This program aired on October 1, 2012.
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