The Five Things to Know About Last Night's Debate

Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren finally took some time away from sniping at each other via press release to snipe at each other from the same room in last night’s debate, the first of four. Maybe you missed it! Maybe you have amnesia! We’re not here to judge. Should you need a crash course, here are five takeaways:

No one “won.” At least not decisively. Sure people have their opinions on who performed best, but broadly, there’s not much consensus forming around either one of them. Debates are often a race for the news clip, so that all the people who don’t watch the debates can see how it went. (P.S., if you didn’t watch it, WBZ has it in full online.) Often that’s an embarrassing news clip, a “gaffe,” a la Rick Perry’s “oops” moment in last year’s Republican debates. There wasn’t one takeaway line or dramatic moment to pass around via YouTube today. Everyone survives.

Brown was “feisty.” Also, Cherokees. The host, WBZ’s Jon Keller, opened by asking each candidate whether the other had the “character” to be a senator, giving Brown an awkwardly early opening to bring up Warren’s claims of Indian ancestry. It was his first question! Whether you think that showed him coming out strong or showed him looking a little too eager on a petty side issue, it was surprising how little time it took to get there. In general, Brown looked and sounded aggressive in his opening minutes against Warren. He called her “Professor Warren” on nearly every reference. Here’s a screen shot of him literally licking his lips as she defends herself.







How to spin that for Warren? “Brown’s image as an affable political figure might have taken a hit with his needling of Warren,” The Globe’s write-up suggests.

How to spin it for Brown? “Except to repeat the same answers she’s given, Warren didn’t exactly defuse the attack that she must have known was coming. As Tom Keane at The Globe writes, “Why didn’t she simply agree to Brown’s request that she release her employment records? Thus the issue — something that should have been just a one-day story — stays alive.”

Warren was subdued. Is it just us, or was Warren actually whispering when she gave her defenses on the Native American thing? In recent weeks, even fellow Democrats have started to worry that Warren comes off a little…  professorial. Warren did not shy from attacking Brown on a host of issues, but she obviously tried to look a little warmer while doing so. (Although, she did get a bit smirky toward the later half of the debate.) There was less pointing and more smiling.

Speaking of the issues: It’s difficult to recap it all, but they covered a lot of ground. The candidates had rapid-fire back-and-forth on taxes, oil subsidies, Iran, Supreme Court appointments, and women’s reproductive issues. In other words, it was actually a debate! Those of us who have followed closely had heard a lot of what both of them alleged, but if you’d like a summary of the past year of press releases, well, watch the replay of last night. Really, we’d actually recommend it as a good summary of the two candidates’ cases on a range of topics. That does leave us wondering though … Typically when presidential candidates have multiple debates, they are separated out by topic. What the heck are these two are going to fight about for the next three debates?

Brown’s most memorable moment? In our opinion it was his spin on Warren’s suggestion that he’s holding the middle class hostage in order to ensure tax cuts for the richest 2 percent of Americans. Brown’s response? “The criticism that you’re hearing from professor Warren and her supporters is that I don’t want to raise taxes. Guilty as charged.” Warren made her case, but his response was quick and memorable.

Warren’s most memorable moment? Her current strategy is to point out that a vote for Brown helps Republicans take control of the Senate. She used a question on global warming to make the point. She said if Republicans get the majority, Senator Jim Inhofe will be chair of the committee that controls the EPA. “He’s a man who has called global warming a hoax. In fact, that’s the title of his book,” she said. It’s a scary point, and Brown’s response that,  “you’re not running against Senator Jim Inhofe, you’re running against me,” didn’t really defuse it.

The pre-debate drama: It’s overshadowed by the actual debate, but in case you missed it, Brown briefly said the Democrats might schedule a late vote to make him miss the debate. Harry Reid said, “no way.” So, Brown got on a plane, hopped in his truck (which was apparently waiting for him at the airport … we’re skeptical) and made it to the debate in time. Phew.