I just finished watching the first debate between Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren on WBZ, the CBS affiliate here in Boston.
I must say that Warren was more effective in articulating her talking points than Brown. While Warren was calm and confident, Brown seemed flustered, stumbled over his words and was on the defensive for most of the debate. Brown seemed to regain his stride in the second half of the debate but I think Warren largely set the terms of the debate. Of course, it’s helpful to Warren when two of the questions asked were, “Would you vote for a Supreme Court justice who opposes Roe v. Wade?” and “Do you believe in climate change?” It also helps Warren when Brown tries to outliberal Warren on these questions. That is simply an impossible task.
It wasn’t that Brown didn’t go after Warren. He went after her at the outset of the debate over her claims of being Native American, her Harvard salary, accepting nearly a quarter of million of dollars from Travellers Insurance to deprive absestos victims of compensation and being the intellectual inspiration for the Occupy movement. Warren responded to these charges like it was water off her back. Chances are the reason she can do this is that most Massachusetts voters just don’t care.
Warren kept on message arguing again and again that by Brown voting against a tax increase for the top 2% to 3% he was holding the tax reduction of the other 97-98% hostage. She also claimed that Brown opposed the Buffett Rule and thus wanted millionaires and billionaires to pay lower taxes than their secretaries. Unfortunately, Brown did not respond that Warren was not differentiating between capital gain taxes and income taxes. Nor did he say that that Warren effectively supported increasing capital gains tax for ordinary investors. When Warren claimed that clean energy wasn’t subsidized, Brown failed to mention Solyndra.
I was amazed that Warren could say with a straight face that President Obama was doing “a first rate job” preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. I am also amazed that Brown could say with a straight face that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was doing “a great job” on Iran. This is the same Hillary Clinton who explicitly refuses to draw a line in the sand on Iran.
The good news for Brown is that there are three more debates. The next debate will take place at UMass-Lowell on October 1st.
ADDENDUM: I meant to comment on this but it slipped my mind. Warren made a point of mentioning how much she supported Barack Obama and wanted him to remain President. Brown did not mention Mitt Romney’s name once.