Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Warren/Brown Debate: Who Won?

Who won the second debate? To me it's an easy call: Warren won. And no, I'm not saying this because I'm rooting for her. It's really more about simple math and campaign reality.

When it comes to debates, if you are the front-runner then it's in your favor when the debate is a snore, when it comes off without a hitch and is just your typical Q&A with no fireworks or memorable moments. The candidate(s) trailing in the polls has to stir things up and hope for a game-changer occurrence, otherwise the debate becomes a wasted opportunity as the polls will likely remain unchanged.

That said I didn't detect any memorable zinger last night, no "There you go again" or "I knew Jack Kennedy" lines. Instead it was more desperado retread of Native American crap along with lots of eruptions of laughter. Assuming Brown continues to trail in polls (he's plummeted from 65% to 30% at Intrade), expect things to get much uglier in the next debate.

However, I will posit that Brown knows he's up against a woman and that a big positive for him is his good-natured personality. For those reasons, he can't overly risk going all-out after Warren and jeopardize coming off badly, resulting in even worse poll numbers. Quite a pickle.

Needless to say, the same holds true for Romney tomorrow night. He's trailing by a sizable margin so look for him to go for broke with several attempts at zinger lines that he hopes will land and stick. The risk is it all appears nakedly transparent and therefore could backfire as a desperate act from a floundering and soon-to-be loser.

But back to the Warren/Brown race, in the next debate I still think she needs to do more of two things, which I wrote about after the first debate.
It was frustrating to see her miss some golden opportunities. For example, she never mentioned that Brown was one of the top receivers of hedge fund and financial services money -- this despite the fact he was elected during the Tea Party furor with many Republican voters expecting him to change the way things are done in DC. Instead he's been accepting big bucks from the Wall Street honchos just like every other politician that's come before him. Just another hack attempting to convince voters he's different.

Also, Warren repeated many of her points several times, but one point she should've made earlier in the debate: tying Brown with the letter "R". And she should've then pounded that point home repeatedly for the rest of the hour.

The fact is Brown is fairly moderate for a modern-day Republican -- which granted is not saying much given how far to the right the GOP has drifted over the last twenty years. But because his record is not right-wing to the extreme, it's more difficult for Warren to lay out black-and-white differences between the two for voters to appreciate.

However, by starkly aligning Brown with the many kooks in his party, and doing so many times, Warren would've inflicted serious and lasting damage, especially when you consider a state like Massachusetts, where even Republican voters tend to favor non-crazy, more moderate candidates. When Warren made the statement, that by voting for Brown could very well tilt the balance of power in the Senate and thus put the likes of Senator Inhofe in charge of key committees, you could almost see Scott Brown wince in pain. He quickly retorted that she was running against him and not Inhofe, but you could tell then that she drew blood and he was running scared. I think she may have repeated this line of attack one more time, but they then moved on and it was already fairly late in the debate. Too bad and lucky for Brown.

In the next debate, she'll do better. "The Professor" will be more at ease, the Native American stuff is played out, and my hope is she'll do more of what I wrote about above. She should repeat the line that Brown = "R" = possible 51+ Republican Senators, and she should repeat it many times and even expand on it. Everything is at stake with this potential power shift in the Senate. If the Republicans gain control, the list is endless as to what will be affected: the environment, future Supreme Court nominees, etc., and this fact will resonate with all voters in Massachusetts.

Yes, Scott Brown is nowhere near as unhinged as the rest in his party, however that's not the point when the balance of power in the Senate is hanging so precariously. Brown wants this election to be about him alone, but it's not. What truly matters is "R" vs. "D" and unfortunately for Brown he is an "R", nuff said.

I do not mean to say that Warren isn't a superior candidate and that we should vote for her strictly by default against her Republican opponent. But again, no matter what you feel about Brown personally or his record, one can't vote for him due to guilt by association. To vote for him is to increase the likelihood of the lunatics running the asylum come the new year.

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