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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Is that all there is?

It's billed as the most important race in the country, one that could decide which party controls the Senate. You sure can't prove it by listening.

After regaling us with waitresses, family and forgotten politicians, Scott Brown promised a "major policy speech" yesterday. What we got instead was the not-so-startling declaration that to Elizabeth Warren "there’s no bad time to raise a tax."

Warren in turn dismissed Brown's declaration that she favored a $3.4 trillion tax hike “a made-up number,” but offered little other than her standard stump line about how the "wealthiest individuals and the biggest corporations can afford to pay their fair share."

Despite raising millions of dollars each, the race is quieter than a corporate office on a summer Friday. Brown's steady stream of advertising pablum has been met with occasional flights of Warren commercials urging infrastructure spending and help for college students in avoiding staggering debt.

There's logic in Brown keeping it personal. He continues to enjoy the image of a likable lug who has fought back from childhood adversity. A basketball player, he appears to have adopted a run out the clock strategy. In the first quarter.

Brown has let his staff do the dirty work, taking the fight to Warren over red herrings like her Cherokee heritage and the absurd notion that Warren's daughter has single handedly plotted to register welfare recipients to vote against Brown.

To say Warren's response has been passive is to be generous. She has allowed Brown to define her and the the issues, from his mock courteous reference to "Professor" Warren to failing to adequately address the heritage question.

Brown has established a clear voting record in support of the banks and financial institutions she has rightly targeted for causing the Great Recession -- and walking away virtually scot-free thanks to a compliant Congress that answers their siren song of campaign cash.

Maybe Warren is waiting until after Labor Day to unleash the message that Brown operates in a far different manner than the image her projects. A look at Twitter feeds suggest she and her supporters are out across the state engaging voters one-on-one.

But Brown, after lulling us with soft-focus commercials, is no doubt also waiting to unleash a barrage after Labor Day to keep Warren on the defensive.

The state's junior senator is vulnerable to a sharply focused campaign that indeed paints him as the difference between Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader. And his failure to engage directly with the media or in town hall meetings where he can't control the audience shows he knows it.

And she does too:
“He’s out and visible without having to talk about the issues or take any questions, because when he talks about the issues, he’s got a real problem,” Warren said. “And when he starts to take questions, he’s got a bigger problem.”
But unless Warren takes the offensive and engages him on his obvious weaknesses, she will be held in even deeper scorn than Martha Coakley if McConnell wields the gavel come January.

Oh yeah: Brown's news-making moment? Congress should come back to in a special session "this summer" to address the budget issues that the GOP has repeatedly stymied by refusing to consider new revenues -- on their corporate patrons -- as part of the solution.

With the two party conventions right around the corner that's about as hollow a challenge as a politician can issue.

Of course, Brown didn't stick around to let anyone challenge him on that "major policy" declaration. And Warren didn't either.

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