Scott Brown’s appetite for debate diminishes
US Senator Scott Brown, after insisting for days that he was eager for a final face-off with Elizabeth Warren, said on Tuesday that he did not believe another debate was necessary and that he would not be able to reschedule the one that was canceled because of the storm.
Brown’s pronouncement represented a striking shift from his comments on Friday, when he said there was no way that Hurricane Sandy would prevent him from taking on Warren on Tuesday as scheduled.
“That’s why I have a truck,” Brown told WBZ-TV on Friday. “You know, it has four-wheel drive. If she needs a ride, I’m happy to pick her up, and I’ll be there, providing the electricity is on.”
Even Monday morning, when Massachusetts was under a state of emergency, Brown was resolute when speaking with reporters at the state’s emergency management bunker in Framingham.
“If it’s appropriate we’ll have it tomorrow,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “If not we’ll just do it the next day or the next day. Certainly we’re going to do it, I think the people want to hear where we stand on all the final issues, a couple of days before the election.”
But later that afternoon his campaign announced that he would not appear at Tuesday night’s debate, saying it was time to focus on storm recovery efforts. While negotiations continued Tuesday, and Warren agreed to a rescheduled debate on Thursday, Brown ultimately said it was not logistically possible.
“With only days remaining in the campaign, and with a long-planned bus tour kicking off Thursday through Election Day that will take Scott Brown to every corner of the Commonwealth, our calendar simply cannot accommodate a rescheduling of this fourth debate and the planning and preparation that would go into it,” read a statement from campaign manager Jim Barnett sent late Tuesday.
The consortium hosting the debate, which includes the Globe, said it had offered multiple options to both campaigns.
“This is very disappointing for all the citizens who will not have an opportunity to hear directly from the candidates a week before this important election,” said WGBH executive producer Linda Polach, who has been coordinating the effort for the consortium.
The debate was to be moderated by CNN reporter John King and broadcast on a number of local television and radio stations. It was to be the fourth and final debate, and the first since an Oct. 10 forum in Springfield that was not widely seen in Greater Boston.
It would have been the final opportunity for voters to see the candidates together, with the election now less than a week away. A Globe poll released Monday found that 39 percent of voters had not seen the previous three debates between Brown, a Republican, and Warren, a Democrat and Harvard Law School professor.
Massachusetts did not bear the brunt of the storm, but 370,000 people lost power. Both candidates canceled campaign events Tuesday, but continued to appear in public, assessing storm damage.
By Tuesday morning, Brown was sounding increasingly reluctant to reschedule, repeatedly referring questions about the debate to his campaign, which did not return calls from Globe reporters throughout the day.
Brown said that in addition to a scheduling conflict on Thursday, there was no need to debate Warren again.
“I had two radio debates that she didn’t participate in, so people know where we stand on the issues and I’m going to continue to do my job,” Brown said.
Warren’s campaign said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that she wanted to debate Brown and would agree to meet on Thursday. During a visit to Westport, she declined to say whether she thought Brown was using the storm to duck a final encounter.
“My view is that the people of Massachusetts have a right to hear from the two candidates for this important Senate race, a right to hear from us face to face,” she said. “We’ve had three debates but everyone was counting on one more before the election. I think it’s important for the people of Massachusetts to hear directly from the candidates.”Michael Levenson, Mark Arsenault, and Glen Johnson of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Noah Bierman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @noahbierman.