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MA Senate Race: The Issues That Will Dominate the Final Two Weeks

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren has made a concentrated push for the importance of women's issues and a Democratic Senate majority in the final weeks of before Election Day, while Republican Senator Scott Brown has taken a more diversified approach in his appeals to undecided voters in the highly-contested Massachusetts Senate race.

An October 9th through 11th survey of 1,051 likely voters conducted by Public Policy Polling found Warren leading by 6 points, 50-44, but a WBUR poll of 501 likely voters from October 5th through 7th gave Brown a 3-point edge, 48-45, and the contest remains too close to call with less than two weeks to go.

"The strategies the candidates are employing in the final two weeks of the campaign are consistent with what we would expect given the polls," said Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women & Politics Institute at American University.

With her slight edge, Lawless said that Warren needs to continue to do what has worked and energize the Democratic base to ensure good turnout on Election Day.

"Women are a natural constituency for this," she said.

"Brown, on the other hand, needs to chip away at Warren’s lead however he can, and that means a multi-pronged attack."

Senate Control and Women's Issues

The Warren campaign released a new television ad on Friday, entitled "Control," in which an announcer warns that "Just one vote, just one Senator, could put Republicans in control of the United States Senate."

The ad goes on to say that Republican control of the Senate could mean large cuts to education and Medicare, tax cuts for millionaires and that the next Supreme Court Justice could be in a position to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Warren has raised all the potential threats of a Republican Senate majority during the past few months on the campaign trail and in her debates with Brown.

"Scott Brown is not a bad guy, he takes some good votes, but when it comes to issues that are really important to the families here in Massachusetts, he too often votes with millionaires and billionaires, not with working people," Warren said during a campaign stop in Worcester last month.

Following their October 10 meeting in Springfield, Warren rolled out an ad highlighting her opponent's Senate vote against a bill for equal pay for women and his co-sponsorship of a bill that would allow employers and insurance companies to deny contraceptive coverage to employees based on moral objection, as well as his vote against the appointment of pro-choice Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.

Brown defended his vote against the Democratic equal pay bill, arguing that it would have cost jobs. The Senator has said that he co-sponsored the contraception bill because it would prevent religious groups and Catholic organizations in particular from having to compromise their faith to comply with healthcare laws, and that he voted against Kagan's appointment because she lacked judicial experience.

For his part, the Republican has accused Warren of attempting to scare women. Brown was one of the first members of his party to call for Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin to resign his nomination after his comments about the physiological response of women's bodies in cases of "legitimate rape."

Bipartisanship and Low Taxes

While the Warren campaign's efforts seem to be coalescing around the central themes of Senate control and women's issues, the Brown campaign has gone after the Democrat on a variety of issues over the past week, such as taxes and healthcare costs, and continued pushing its bipartisan message as well.

On Monday, Brown picked up the endorsement of Laurie Myers, president of Community VOICES, a victims' advocacy group in the Bay State that works with survivors of rape and domestic violence.

Myers first met Brown in 2003 when he was still a State Senator and instituted an open-door policy in his office for victims testifying on Beacon Hill to compose themselves.

“As a youngster growing up with violence in the home, I know the importance of connecting women and children with the resources and help necessary to change their situation,” Brown said.

“In the Senate, I pledge to always be a voice for the women and children who are suffering abuse."

Meanwhile, Arthur Broadhurst, a former state representative from Methuen and a member of the "Democrats for Brown" coalition, said Warren would support tax hikes that would be devastating to the Merrimack Valley.

"We need more people like Scott Brown working across party lines to keep taxes low, control spending and get our country moving again, and that’s why I was proud to cross party lines to endorse him in May.”

Former Republican state representative Karyn Polito also endorsed the Senator at a Women for Brown event this week, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will be in the Commonwealth to campaign for him on Wednesday.

"The candidates are following different strategies based on where they see their best shot," said Darrell West, vice president and director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution.

West said that Warren is focusing on women because they are the bulk of the undecided voters, while Brown has a more diversified approach based on issues and personal background.

"That suggests he is not sure what attack will move voters so he wants to have multiple routes to victory. A single approach is okay as long as the candidate chooses the right issue. If that calculation is off, then it is a game-altering choice." 

At this stage in the game, it all comes down to repetition, said Morgan Marietta, an assistant professor of Political Science at UMass-Lowell. Warren will continue to hammer on women's issues and Brown's party ties, and Brown will continue to trumpet his non-partisan efforts and raise questions over Warren's ethics.

"Repetition is not foolish, but effective, especially for the remaining undecided voters who are not paying as much attention to the race," said Marietta.

"The messages that are the most simple, value-laden, and repeated will be the most effective." 


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