Last week’s debate between Senator Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren showcased each candidates strategy for the final stretch, in what polls show is a very close race: Warren, as John Nichols wrote, smoothly made the case that even if voters like Brown, his re-election could return Republicans to the very crucial control of the Senate.
Brown, meanwhile, telegraphed his strategy pretty clearly in his opening statement. He spent almost all of it hitting Warren over the silly “Cherokee” controversy, and derisively referred to her as “professor” throughout the debate. (At some points during her professional career, Warren claimed on forms or to employers that she has Native American heritage, which is true—though it’s only one-thirty-second of her lineage. But she never used it to get hired under any sort of affirmative action program, and her employers have said it was always irrelevant. So this amounts to a big nothing-burger).
This marks a shift for Brown—instead of attacking Warren’s policies, he’s going to begin attacking her personally. He confirmed as much to Politico yesterday (in a story titled “No More Mr. Nice Guy”), saying “The true Elizabeth Warren is coming out and will continue to come out.”
And yesterday, the Brown campaign released an ad titled “Who Knows?” that focuses entirely on the Cherokee controversy, and implying (using an unfortunately worded reply by Warren to a reporter’s question) that there are things voters still don’t know about her:
This morning, things got even more ugly. Video surfaced of Brown staffers, including his constituent service counsel and deputy chief of staff, firing up supporters at a rally by making “war whoops” and “tomahawk chops,” an unmistakable dig at Warren’s heritage claims. (And, I would venture, something far more insensitive and exploitative to Native Americans than whatever they accuse Warren of doing):
So this is the new, ugly Scott Brown strategy. Maybe it’s the best way to win in a deeply blue state—by making Warren unacceptable to voters. But there’s a flip side: if Brown wants to make this about personality, these unseemly and vicious attacks might end up hurting him more than helping.
UPDATE: Brown told Boston station WCVB that he “doesn’t condone” his staffer’s actions, but amazingly said the “real offense” is that Warren “said she was white and then checked the box saying she is Native American, and then she changed her profile in the law directory once she made her tenure.”
For more on the Massachusetts Senate race, read John Nichols on Brown and Warren's highly-contentious debate.