The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Brown on Warren: ‘She’s Obsessed With Raising Taxes.’


The final Morning Jolt of the week features a lot of discussion about “you can’t change Washington from the inside,” but also an update on last night’s debate between Republican senator Scott Brown and Democrat Elizabeth Warren.

Warren! Brown! The Brawl in Boston!

Last night, Republican Sen. Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren held their first debate.

Ira Stoll saw a preview of the themes we’re likely to see in this fall’s presidential debates:

Professor Warren sought to depict Senator Brown as a friend of billionaires and big oil companies, asking “whose side do you stand on?” She said she favored a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction — one of President Obama’s favorite euphemisms for tax increases.

Senator Brown sought to depict Professor Warren as a tax-increaser, and he genially deflected her attacks. “Her criticism of me is that I’m not gonna raise taxes, and that’s an accurate criticism,” he said. At another point, he said, “The criticism you’re hearing . . . I don’t want to raise taxes. Guilty as charged.” He said of Professor Warren, “she’s obsessed with raising taxes. . . . The first thing, every single time, is to raise taxes.”

Responding to Professor Warren’s criticism of him for a vote she described as cutting oil subsidies, Senator Brown noted that gas prices are $4 a gallon, and said, “I’m no friend of big oil. I’m a friend of the motorist.” Professor Warren retorted that what she called the “big five” oil companies made $137 billion in profits last year.

Senator Brown also rejected Professor Warren’s attempt to divide Americans into the top 3% versus everyone else, or billionaires and oil companies versus everyone else. “Fingerpointing, us versus them, the haves and have-nots,” he said.

William Jacobson was watching, and while he thinks Brown did himself some good.

Very strong opening for Brown on fake Cherokee issue.  He didn’t handle it the way I would have, but he picked an issue — the release of her employment records — and stuck to it.  (added) In hindsight, focusing on releasing records was brilliant, because Warren has a major problem, she likely made or participated in causing Harvard to make false federal filings as to her Native American status using standard Harvard and EEOC definitions.

Warren probably got the better, in liberal Massachusetts, on social issues using the War on Women theme.  Brown deflected it, but it probably stirred up the base.

Warren didn’t land many blows, but Brown hit her very hard at the end on two points. When Warren brought up the high cost of college, Brown hammered her on her lavish salary and perks.

When Warren tried to say that Brown sided with big companies, Brown lowered the boom on something most viewers probably didn’t know, that Warren represented Travelers Insurance Co. and was paid $225,000 to defeat asbestos claims.  Brown harped on it, and because most viewers probably didn’t know, I think it hurt.

Brown also gave multiple shout outs to union members, including on the Keystone Pipeline.  Remember, the unions supported Coakley in 2010, but the members voted with Brown.

I imagine supporters will still support each, but even putting aside my disdain for Warren and trying to be as neutral as I can, I think Brown helped himself tonight.  It wasn’t a knockout, but he won easily on points because Warren needed to demonize him, and he came across as he always comes across, as a regular guy the people can relate to.

I’m always a little wary of these flash polls, but for what it’s worth: “Fifty percent (50%) of voters who watched tonight’s U.S. Senate debate between Senator Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren said the Senator won, with 40% saying that Warren won the debate (6% thought it was a tie and 4% were undecided) according to a Kimball Political Consulting survey of ‘likely voters’ in Massachusetts.”

ADDENDA: A Leno joke, transmitted by Andrew Malcolm: “Leno: MSNBC reports the economy has bottomed out. There’s an Obama slogan: ‘It Can’t Get Any Worse Than This.’”

Tags: Elizabeth Warren , Scott Brown


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