Tonight’s debate is the third out of four televised meetings between Republican Senator Scott Brown and his Democratic challenger, Harvard professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren. The Springfield debate is the only one that will take place outside the media saturated eastern half of the state. Here are five things to watch for in tonight’s debate:
- Will the American Indian heritage issue come up again?
- Questions for Warren on Travelers and LTV as well as practicing law
- Will Brown dodge the Mitt Romney question again?
- Brown and the Supreme Court
Warren’s self-described American Indian heritage was a major part of the first two debates leading to some, including this observer, to think Brown has overplayed his hand on this issue. Polls have shown repeatedly that an overwhelming majority of voters know about this issue but it does not appear to have moved undecided voters. Warren has handled the issue in the debates better than she has throughout the entire campaign by giving calm, disarming responses to the charges.
In the second debate Warren faced scrutiny from Brown for working for Travelers Insurance and LTV on lawsuits that shielded them from paying workers, some injured, for a variety of reasons. Warren’s response on the issue was not very convincing. The newer and vague issue of her having practiced law in Massachusetts without a license has risen to the forefront but it’s unclear if she actually violated the law.
When asked if he would be an ally for Romney in Washington Brown did everything he could to avoid answering. “I don’t work for anybody. I don’t work for President Obama or Mitt Romney or Mitch McConnell or Harry Reid. I work for the people of Massachusetts.” Brown has done his absolute best to maintain his image as an independent, non-ideological senator and showing even a hint of alignment with Romney will hurt that.
In the first debate Brown appeared too aggressive but managed to avoid any gaffes that would be instant fodder for TV ads. In the second debate he dialed down the hostility but stepped in when answering a question about the Supreme Court. Brown spoke favorably about Justice Antonin Scalia, not exactly a moderate. Watch for the dreaded “litmus test” question to come up during the debate in addition to Warren hitting Brown for talking up a conservative jurist like Scalia.
With the Jim Lehrer and David Gregory disasters still fresh in everybody’s minds it’s safe to say that the pressure is on Jim Madigan of WGBY. Jon Keller of WBZ set the bar very high for debate moderation with his get the heck out of the way but don’t lose control of this thing approach. Hopefully, Madigan can match Keller and avoid a repeat of Gregory’s performance.
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