The third Massachusetts Senate debate between Republican Senator Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren Wednesday night showed one thing: how good a debator any politician can be after three chances to say the same things.
Unlike the last debate, the two candidates were unfailingly polite to each other. When Brown said that Warren's regulatory policies would hurt the middle class, Warren responded, "I'm glad you mentioned regulations!" (She then went on to mention that her support of regulations led to a new agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.) Brown complimented Warren on the creation of the CFPB (but then, of course, he mentioned that he was the deciding vote in the Dodd-Frank bill that created it.) The moderator, New England public television's Jim Madigan, apologized when he had to mention the candidates were out of time.
The hullaboo came from the audience that—despite being told several times not to respond to their candidates—clapped or booed when the spirit moved them. The spirit moved them quite a bit, and perhaps that's because both Brown and Warren have really smoothed their debate responses into fine-tuned soundbites. Warren hammers Brown as a friend of Wall Street and millionaires; Brown tries to portray himself as a bipartisan option against Warren, a tax-and-spend liberal. If the reactions from the crowd are a good yardstick with which to measure the effect these debates have on the electorate, then these debates have served to solidify support from the candidates' fans rather than change anyone's mind.