Sen. Scott Brown (R) and Elizabeth Warren (D) had their penultimate debate in Massachusetts last night, and as Rachel noted on the show last night, the incumbent "did not pull out his magic Scott Brown divining rod to measure Elizabeth Warren's whiteness like he did in previous debates."
That automatically made last night an improvement.
That said, there was one moment in the debate I found rather devastating.
For those who can't watch clips online, here's what Warren had to say about women's health and reproductive rights.
"I have no doubt that Sen. Brown is a good husband and a good father to his daughters. But this is an issue that affects all of our daughters, and our granddaughters. And what matters here is how Sen. Brown votes. So he's gone to Washington, and he's had some good votes. But he's had exactly one chance to vote for equal pay for equal work, and he voted no. He had exactly one chance to vote for insurance coverage for birth control and other preventive services for women. He voted no. And he had exactly one chance to vote for a pro-choice woman -- from Massachusetts -- to the United States Supreme Court, and he voted no. Those are bad votes for women. The women of Massachusetts need a senator they can count on, not some of the time, but all of the time. [...]
"I am a mother of a daughter, and a grandmother of granddaughters, and this is about their future. And I want to be blunt: we should not be fighting about equal pay for equal work and access to birth control in 2012. These issues were resolved years ago -- until the Republicans brought them back."
In terms of style, a candidate doesn't just come up with a takedown this good on the spot, but more important is the substance -- Warren was right about the Republican's voting record and spoke with authority about the underlying issue. Brown is counting enough center-left Massachusetts voters to say, "He's a Republican, but he'll vote the right way sometimes." Warren's response last night was about saying "sometimes" isn't enough.
Greg Sargent urged President Obama and Vice President Biden to not only watch the clip but also to "take careful notes."
Paul Ryan voted against the Lily Ledbetter Act. Romney has said he supports equal pay in principle but has refused to say whether he'd have signed that law. Ryan and Romney supported the Blunt Amendment, which would allow insurers and employers to deny coverage for birth control if they find it morally objectionable. Romney does not oppose birth control, but he would defund Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive health care to millions of women. Romney has vowed to govern as a "pro life president," which would presumably impact his choice of Supreme Court nominees.
Two constituencies that will be absolutely critical are unmarried and blue collar white women. Research suggests that Obama failed at the debate partly because he didn't speak to the economic concerns of unmarried women, a key component of his coalition. Meanwhile, non-college white women -- economically pinched "waitress moms" -- have emerged as key drivers of Obama's leads in the battleground states, and will be critical to Obama's hopes of keeping Romney's share of the white vote below what he needs to win. As Ron Brownstein notes, many of these women view women's health issues as "practical pocketbook concerns." Equal pay and women's health care are economic issues, and if Obama and Biden can successfully drive home the GOP ticket's positions on them in upcoming debates, it could resonate among these critical constituencies.
If this isn't raised tonight and in next week's debate, it'll be an important missed opportunity for the Democratic ticket.