After the debate Congressman Barney Frank, D-Newton, who is retiring this year, disputed Brown’s characterization of himself as independent and moderate.
"He’s a conservative Republican in effect (because of how he votes),” he said. “What he really believes is inconsistent with the majority of Massachusetts voters.”
The candidates’ tactics remain as they have been since their first debate last month. Brown, prompted by the moderator then, went on the attack about Warren’s ancestry claims and last night, again prompted by the moderator, again persistently questioned her intentions. Warren tried to paint Brown as a right-wing ideologue. And both candidates said they were the choice for helping the middle class.
Frank Talty, a political science professor at UMass Lowell and director of its Center for Public Opinion, said Brown’s more bare-knuckled tactics reflected a sense in the senator’s campaign that he could raise enough questions about Warren and make her seem unpalatable without doing too much damage to his nice-guy, everyman reputation. But that tack could only work for so long.
"These ads go after the Native American issue, but then it comes back to hurt you,” he said.
Warren, on the other hand, highlighted her connection to and work with President Obama, whom Talty said would likely win Massachusetts handily and is the most popular politician in the state.
"If you’re Professor Warren, you need to leverage him in your campaign,” Talty said. “She does it by talking about how she’s supportive of his agenda, and Obama’s lead over Romney is enormous.”
Independents will likely be key, he said, particularly since a recent UMass Lowell poll found that Brown has a number of people who lean toward voting for him, but are open to changing their minds. Warren’s supporters are much more firm.