Congratulations to UMass Lowell for hosting tonight’s US Senate debate between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren. I was fortunate to be in attendance and very much enjoyed the carnival atmosphere outside the arena before the debate as supporters of both candidates filled every open space, holding signs, wearing t-shirts, and seeming to have a pretty good time. Inside the arena, the logistics worked fine. The seats were packed and the sound system worked well although the audio was out of synch with the video shown on the big message board but that didn’t matter much since the arena provides everyone in the place with excellent sight lines of the stage.
As for the substance of the debate, Warren supporters will give her the win and Brown supporters will do the same for their guy. I thought the moderator, David Gregory of Meet the Press, did a poor job. Few issues of national import were discussed at all, and those that were escaped substantive discussion in a fog of campaign commercial verbiage. In fact, the two questions asked by UMass students (on jobs and immigration) were the weightiest of the evening. Notably absent from Gregory’s question set were anything to do with health care policy, reproductive rights, same sex marriage, education policy, and many others. As the clock was running out, Gregory asked a single foreign policy question – on Afghanistan – but time constraints prevented any exploration of how the two candidates view foreign policy. Gregory’s similarly rushed question, “who is your model Supreme Court justice?” yielded what will probably be the most memorable utterance of the debate – when Scott Brown said “Antonin Scalia.” I say it will be the most memorable because by Thursday morning, Warren will have a TV commercial running that features that clip along with an inventory of Scalia’s most radical statements and writings, most of which will be found politically abhorent by a large chunk of the Massachusetts electorate. It’s ironic that for all Warren’s efforts to paint Brown as a supporter of the national right wing agenda who masquerades as a Massachusetts moderate, it will be Brown’s own words that do the most to prove that charge.