Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren met in Springfield, Mass. for the third of four debates on Wednesday night, and for once, they weren't too mean to each other. What's perhaps even more impressive is that fact that Brown, now trailing in the polls, managed to make it through an entire hour on stage with this challenger without mentioning her Native American heritage. Is this a sign of progress, an indication that politics have finally evolved past superficial and sometimes questionable character attacks? Probably not. But it was a decent debate!
If you've been following the Brown-Warren race, you're well familiar with each candidate's talking points, especially when it comes to assaulting the enemy. Brown was quick to his pistols on the topic of education and accused Warren of being an overpaid elitist. He scolded her for making $350,000 a year as a Harvard Law Professor and insinuated that this is why we have student loan problems. "It's interesting: Kids are actually forced to go out and borrow money at a high interest rate. And they pay it to schools like Harvard, and Harvard actually goes and then gives a zero-interest loans to its professors," said Brown. "That's one of the driving forces behind the high costs of education." This is kind of a bad example, because Harvard actually covers the cost of tuition for students whose families can't afford it, specifically so that they don't have to take out loans.
Warren didn't miss any opportunities to lay into Brown, either. As The Washington Post's Sean Sullivan points out, Warren seemed more aggressive than her challenger and "the entire hour felt more like a referendum on Brown's record than it did a comparison between the two candidates." And she did it with a national scope, too, raising the stakes for the election beyond state politics. On health care, she said that Brown was using the "same playbook that Mitt Romney used a week ago tonight. It was wrong then, it is wrong tonight." She also slammed Brown for voting "against a pro-choice woman from Massachusetts to the U.S. Supreme Court" -- a.k.a. Elena Kagan.
But back to the lack of discussion about Warren's Native American heritage. Brown didn't bring it up. The moderator didn't bring it up. And Warren certainly didn't bring it up. Without peering into the crystal ball too much, one might conclude that it's getting down to the wire for Brown and his struggle to save his Senate seat. Enough that he doesn't dare resurrect the issue that ended up thrusting his staffers into the national media spotlight for a racist demonstration making fun of Native Americans. Sometimes, it's best to stick to the issues, especially when you're four points behind in the polls.
Brown and Warren will meet one more time on October 30 in Boston. We've already made a list of Halloween costumes Brown should consider avoiding at all costs. It's one costume long.