On that simple point, Brown failed, Warren scored. Brown had the disadvantage in this case of having a voting record to defend, and frequently lie about. He touted his record of being the "second most bipartisan senator" about half a dozen times, failing to mention that many of the issues on which he was definitely partisan were some of the biggest to face the Senate. But the constant line of attack from Warren on his voting record put Brown in a defensive, sometimes frantic-sounding response mode, overly aggressive and sometimes desperate sounding, responding with disjointed word salad.
In the first debate of the Massachusetts Senate race, challenger Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Scott Brown faced off over the issues that are playing out nationally in this election, mostly on Warren's ground: income inequality, tax fairness, and who would really stand up for people of Massachusetts. But here's what the first debate boiled down to:
Once the obligatory softball to Brown on the issue of "character," which gave him the opportunity to once again drag out the issue of Warren's heritage, was dispensed with (Warren: "Asked and answered. The Senator just doesn't like the answer"), the debate got down to the key issues. First up was how each of them would create jobs in Massachusetts. Warren stressed both short- and long-term plans, to both get people to work immediately and to "leveling the playing field so that small businesses can compete." Then she pointed to the three separate jobs bills that Brown had voted with Republicans to block, including the American Jobs Act, and two bills to put teachers and first responders back to work, and a bill to create construction and infrastructure jobs. Brown answered with more word salad, answering that he had been working on jobs and "she wants to raise your taxes!"
The issue of taxes was where Warren scored the most direct hits, repeatedly pointing out that Brown, just last week, had said he had made it "crystal clear" that he would work with the Republicans to hold middle class tax cuts hostage to protect the top two percent. Brown was reduced to repeated invocation of the "jobs creators" standing by his protection of the top two percent. Likewise, Warren effectively hit him on his votes to protect subsidies to big oil and millionaires and billionaires. Brown's responses on the taxes was, again, clear: “I’m going to fight for every taxpayer. So once again, her criticism of me is that I’m not going to raise taxes, and that’s an accurate criticism.”
Asked about the fiscal cliff, Warren had a detailed approach with cuts to agriculture subsidies and defense, ending the war in Afghanistan and raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations, and including ending the subsidies to big oil. Brown was left to nothing more than his trusty "bipartisan" card, “The only way we’re going to get this done is to actually work together in a truly bipartisan manner.”
But it was on the last few questions that Warren really laid out what this election is about: on the Supreme Court, protecting women's rights, and climate change. Warren rejected the idea that demanding a Supreme Court nominee who saw Roe v. Wade as settled law was a litmus test, then turned the question to Brown's vote against Elena Kagan, pointing out that he stood with Republicans to block a qualified nominee. Brown answered with a lot about the women in his house and how he'd always fought, leading to this exchange:
Warren: “I guess the way I see this is the women in Massachusetts deserve a senator they can count on not some of the time, but a senator they can count on all of the time."
Brown: “You should stop scaring women, professor. Because I’ve been fighting for women since I was six years old. I’m going to fight for the rights of Catholics to practice their faith. I’m not going to pit women against their church and their faith. I want to have people to have contraceptive care.”
Finally, on a question about climate change, Warren hit pay dirt. Brown said, yes, he does believe in climate change and then launched into a stream of phrases about an all-of-the-above approach, Keystone pipelines (lying about the number of jobs it would create) and how much he was like Ted Kennedy on energy. Warren, cogently, pointed out that Brown is "about a rigged playing field" in which "clean energy has to fight against oil companies and that tilts the balance."
Then she pointed out that Scott Brown has been fundraising around the country specifically on the point that he would be part of the Republican team obstructing Obama, that he would be a Republican team player. She used the example of climate change to point out that the radical Sen. Jim Inhofe, who calls climate change a hoax, would be in charge of overseeing the EPA if Republicans were in control. "This is a race for the control of the senate," she said. "This matters in this race, because it is about the control of Senate."
6:08 PM PT: Says a lot: