After campaigning at arm’s length, Senator Scott Brown and the Democrat trying to unseat him, Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren, met face-to-face tonight for the first of four debates in their hotly contested race.
Boston.com, BostonGlobe.com, and “Political Intelligence’’ provided this live blog to recap the run-up to the event, the candidate back-and-forth, and the post-debate spin.
Read below for a recap.
The debate itself was preceded with some drama amid questions about whether Brown would be able to break free from Capitol Hill to return to Boston. He left the capital at mid-afternoon and arrived at the WBZ-TV studioes at 6:20 p.m. EDT. The debate began at 7 p.m.
Brown, the Republican incumbent, said earlier this week he planned to use the debate to highlight the differences in the political philosophies he and Warren embrace, as well as his interest in job creation and what he labeled her “radical, Occupy Wall Street’’ views.
Warren, trying to win seat back for the Democrats after Brown won a 2010 special election to replace a party icon, the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, said she planned to underscore where she and Brown would diverge on votes she considered important for Massachusetts.
She highlighted votes he cast on summer jobs programs, as well as his support for what she termed oil industry subsidies.
The hour-long debate was moderated by Jon Keller, the political analyst for WBZ-TV and a veteran observer of the Massachusetts political scene.
The candidates will also debate next month in Lowell, Springfield, and Boston.
6:20 p.m. – Senator Brown has arrived, pulling up in is green pickup truck.
Of the drama surrounding his departure from Washington, he told reporters, “I’ve never seen anything like it.’’
6:40 p.m. – In testament to her union backing, Warren benefitted from a big labor turnout outside the WBZ-TV studios. Her signholders vastly outnumbered the smattering who turned out for Brown.
One hardy Brown backer, Jack Patts of Quincy, said, “I like Scott. I’ve been following him for years.’’
He said he liked Brown’s bipartisan work.
“The crossover thing,’’ said Patts, a 60-year-old insurance claims adjuster. “It’s just getting too crazy, the Republicans and the Democrats. He’s doing the right thing.’’
Joe McDermott, a union carpenter from Dorchester, helped hold a sign for Warren.
“Elizabeth Warren has done more for the working people and working families than Scott Brown,’’ said McDermott, 55. She’s a consumer watchdog. The Republicans blocked her from heading the [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau]. She’s going to be the Democrats’ revenge – in the Senate.’’
6:52 p.m. – WBZ is hosting a sizable local and national press corps, underscoring the widespread interest in the race.
Among those on hand are Molly Line of Fox News Channel, Karent Tumulty of The Washington Post, Mark Shields of PBS, and Katharine Q. “Kit’’ Seelye of The New York Times.’’
Our hosts set up a bleacher-style seating arrangement in their former main news studio.
The candidates are next door in the glittering new studio, where pictures are recorded by robotic cameras.’’
6:53 p.m. – The photographers are racing back after shooting photos of Brown and Warren getting mic’d up.
6:54 p.m. – Former Massachusetts Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Nassour has come into the media room to watch the debate.
6:56 p.m. – In a true live-TV moment, CBS News reporter Elaine Quijano – on scene to cover the debate – is watching a taped report she prepared about coral reefs in Florida as WBZ-TV projects the CBS Evening News on the television sets here.
6:58 p.m. – The photographers say that Elizabeth Warren went over and shook Scott Brown’s hand while they were in the studio pre-debate.
7 p.m. – Here we go.
7:01 p.m. – Brown, taking first question, is asked: You have appeared to question the character of your opponent. Are you?
Brown starts by thanking hosts and saying what an honor it is to be a senator.
The senator goes right at it, saying character matters and she claimed to be a Native American, a person of color.
“As you can see, she is not,’’ he says.
7:05 p.m. – Warren, asked the same question, says, “I think Senator Brown is a nice guy,’’ but race is about issues.
Nonetheless. she says “the stories I knew’’ growing up were about her having Native American heritage.
And she adds, “I never used it’’ for professional gain.
7:07 p.m. – Brown returns compliment, saying, “You’re a nice woman, too.’’
But he also says race is about character, and she can resolve questions by releasing her personnel records.
Warren retorts, “The people who hired me have spoken,’’ and they said that her heritage was not a factor in her hiring.
7:08 p.m. – Warren retorts that she has answered the question, but Brown doesn’t likethe answer.
7:09 p.m. – Warren’s first question focuses on job creation. She hits Brown for voting against summer jobs bills and other legislation.
Brown says the three bills he opposed would have cost $450 billion and were rejected in bipartisan fashion. He said they were put up for vote to give candidates like Warren something to attack him on.
Warren goes back to the three jobs bills, recalling a conversation with a carpenter.
“Those are three jobs bills that would have supported jobs here in Massachusetts,’’ she says. They would have been paid for with “fractional’’ tax increase on those making over $1 million.
“We have work to be done, but Senator Brown is lining up with the Republicans to vote ‘no,’’’ she says.
7:12 p.m. – Brown is clearly bristling and eager to get at the professor. She is more calm, unrattled as he goes after her and as she faced first question on sensitive topic of her claim of Native American heritage.
“I’m sorry. These are made-up numbers, Senator Brown,’’ she says as he accuses her of running up the deficit with her policy proposals.
7:15 p.m. – In 2010, Brown was the hunter against Martha Coakley. Now, he is the hunted by Elizabeth Warren.
7:17 p.m. – Warren hits Brown for comments last week saying he would not support tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans if they also don’t include tax cuts for the other 2 percent of Americans.
She says it is emblematic of where he stands.
7:20 p.m. – Brown tallies Warren’s proposals – which she disputes – at $3.3 trillion.
7:21 p.m. – Both candidates are asked about avoiding a fiscal shutdown at the end of the year. He calls for a bipartisan approach. She calls for a “balanced approach’’ with spending cuts and tax increases on the wealthiest Americans.
“If we’re not willing to do both, then it’s more of the same,’’ she says.
Brown retorts that if Warren wanted to pay more in taxes, she could have elected to do so on her state tax form and chose not to.
Brown said he doesn’t support Big Oil, but the motorist who is suffering at the gas pump.
“It took about $70 to fill up the truck the other day,’’ he says.
He adds: “The first answer, every time, she’s obsessed with raising taxes.’’
7:25 p.m. – Brown says, “There’s only one person in this race who is not willing to raise taxes.’’
7:26 p.m. – As the candidates debate, it’s clear the amount of study they have put into each other’s records.
Warren is attacking Brown’s vote one-by-one, while he is attacking her broader political philosophy.
7:27 p.m. – The first commerical break. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the studio.
Most of the commercials now, aware of the audience, are political in nature.
7:29 p.m. – Noting age of Supreme Court, Keller asks if they would support nominee who did not favor abortion rights.
“I would not,’’ says Warren, but she says it is not a litmus test. Rather, she says it’s settled law.
She hits him, too, for voting against former Harvard Law colleague Elena Kagan to join the court.
“I’m sorry I didn’t vote for your boss,’’ he says. Brown adds, “I wish her well. I hope she proves me wrong.’’
7:32 p.m. – After Warren runs through series of votes she says were anti-women, he replies: “You should stop trying to scare women. I have been fighting for women since I was six years old.’’
He was referring to sticking up for his mother against an abusive husband.
7:36 p.m. – Brown retorts, “We’re both pro-choice. …She’s wrong.’’
7:37 p.m. – Keller moves to foreign affairs: When would force be justified.
Brown notes that he is a National Guard member, and says sending troops to war is toughest one he can make. He supported surge and withdrawal in Afghanistan, even if he quibbles on the date.
“We need to make sure that whatever we do, we’re involved in the process,’’ he says, referring to congressional assent.
7:39 p.m. – Warren note her brothers all served in the military, including one with 288 combat missions [as a pilot] in Vietnam.
“I support President Obama; I want him to stay on as commander in chief,’’ she says.
Brown replies that he was impressed to hear about her brother’s missions and he would like to speak with him about them some day.
7:43 p.m. – The senator says he is one of the top advocates for Israel in the Senate and the US cannot let Iran gain a nuclear weapon.
Warren agrees but adds, “This really is about who you want as commander in chief.’’
7:45 p.m. – The candidates are asked about higher education. Warren answers by talking about making education affordable; he attacks her Harvard salary.
Warren says she started teaching at $18,000 per year and is now proud she is at “one of the top teaching spots in the country.’’
7:49 p.m. – Brown hits Warren for working for corporations against asbestos victims.
“You denied people who had asbsestos poisoning their benefits,’’ he says. “You talk about fighting for the little guy?’’
7:51 p.m. – Final question comes for viewer asking if they believe in climate change.
Brown says yes, and he supports an “all-of-the-above’’ energy policy while Warren favors only “wind and solar,’’ including wind turbines in Nantucket Sound.
Warren retorts Brown has been talking about how their election is about control of the Senate potentially.
She says Senator Jim Inhofe would be chairman of the committee overseeing the EPA in that case, and he has written that he believes global warming a “hoax.’’
He retorts: “You’re not running against Senator Jim Onhofe; you’re running against me.’’
7:57 p.m. – And with that final question and answers, the debate concludes.