I tweeted my commentary on last night’s Massachusetts Senate debate between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren in real time, so no need to go much further on it. Basically you saw an incumbent Senator clearly behind in his own internal polling, so he decided to go hard negative. Warren wasn’t flustered by it and played the front-runner role of sticking to her script. You would have thought she was the incumbent. And it showed.
The attacks that Brown leveled may have sounded novel to virgin ears, but all of them, as I understand, have been litigated inside Massachusetts for several months. I don’t think anyone in Massachusetts watching that debate learned anything new in those attacks. The Cherokee heritage story and the story about Warren’s Harvard salary have been in the right-wing fever swamps forever. This story about Warren as a corporate lawyer working with Traveler’s Insurance on an asbestos case was new to me, but it has been vetted in Massachusetts. This report from the Boston Globe from May offers the best insight. Warren joined the case looking to salvage a key piece of bankruptcy law, her core area of expertise. The idea was to save claims for compensation from victims of abuse when the corporations who perpetrate it go bankrupt. After Warren left the case, Traveler’s used the ruling to malign ends. It’s a complicated story without an easy answer, and so Scott Brown is using it. But it has been pretty thoroughly examined in the state.
But I think today’s events outshined anything that happened in that debate last night. Tom Menino, the longtime mayor of Boston, endorsed her for Senate, a critical show of support that comes early enough to free up the resources of what remains a political machine in Boston.
Here was Menino’s justification for support:
Like many voters, I wanted to get to know Elizabeth Warren. You know how I made up my mind about this election? I thought to myself. What if I wasn’t the Mayor. What if I was just a guy from Hyde Park who had a job with the city. Whose wife was an accountant and worried about their retirement savings. What if I was any guy who wondered how his two kids would send his six grandkids to college. And whether they would have good jobs on the other end. If I wasn’t the Mayor, who would speak up in Washington on my behalf? I thought to myself, if I was any guy from Hyde Park, Elizabeth would have my back, and so I have hers.
To me, this represents Menino getting out in front of a parade and pretending to lead it. Warren has been surging in the polls, and the leader of the biggest city in the state wants to associate himself with her, for help in future endeavors.
More important for the near-term in this race, Menino controls a fairly strong get out the vote operation. It wasn’t really put to use in the previous Senate race with Martha Coakley. Brown ended up winning that. This endorsement gives that much more time to succeed, and combine with Warren’s formidable volunteer GOTV efforts.
If the debate went a completely different way – and it didn’t – this would still be the major story coming out of this Senate race in Massachusetts.