Another Massachusetts Senate debate, another opening question about Elizabeth Warren's native American heritage.Watch the debate below:
Inside the Tsongas Arena in front of a raucous crowd of over 4,500, NBC "Meet The Press" host David Gregory opened with the contretemps over the ethnic heritage that the Harvard law professor listed in law directories in the 1980s that has consumed much of the attention in one of the nation's most watched Senate races.
Warren calmly explained. Then Sen. Scott Brown shot back, "There's a test you take, and I believe she's failed that test." Gregory then asked about clients of the candidates, who are both lawyers. That set off more charges and counter-charges.
The back-and-forth exchanges, consuming about a third of the debate, show that the contest has gotten increasingly personal. Warren, in a seeming acknowledgement of Brown's personal popularity, has focused on the senator's voting record. Brown has rolled out the native American issue as proof that Warren can't be trusted and has touted his independence from national Republicans.
Brown has tried to distance himself from Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, unpopular in Massachusetts, but Gregory tried to pin him down. Brown talked about how bipartisan and independent he is. He finally admitted that he supports Romney, "when it comes to dealing with the economic issues, yes, absolutely." He added that Romney is "out campaigning all over the country. I'm running here in Massachusetts." Brown also praised President Barack Obama.
Warren fumbled a question about which Republican senators she would work with. "Richard Lugar would be one to come to mind," she said, then was quickly corrected by Brown and Gregory, who noted that Lugar lost his party primary. Warren said she was willing to work with Republicans to "revise" Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which the government has spent billions to prop up since the housing crisis in 2008.
Brown started explaining his voting record, which he said that Warren had "misstated," and Warren tried to interrupt. "Excuse me, I'm not a student in your classroom. Please let me respond," snapped Brown to a mixture of boos and applause. It seemed to be a soundbite with lasting power.
Brown said he opposed the Dream Act. "I am in favor of full legal immigration, I don't support it, it's a form of back-door amnesty." He charged that Warren favors drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants (not a federal issue), opposed immigration enforcement and is against "securing our border."
"Senator Brown is right, this is is a big difference between the two of us," said Warren. "I would strongly support the Dream Act."
Brown then said that Scalia was his "model" Supreme Court justice, and the crowd roared. He tried to recover a bit by mentioning four other justices of wildly different ideologies. Warren said her model was Elena Kagan, former dean of Harvard Law.
Brown's Supreme Court gaffe will likely overshadow the candidates' policy differences. After the debate, Warren said she would have liked to talk "even more" about Brown's voting record.