SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - When women's issues were raised during last night's debate between Elizabeth Warren and Republican Sen. Scott Brown, Warren shined and Brown stumbled. It was the only real high point of the debate for Warren in an otherwise just-slightly above average performance.
"He has gone to Washington and he has had some good votes but he has 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 contraceptive 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," Warren said.
"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," Warren continued.
Brown, who desperately needs independent female voters on election day, has worked hard to cement his image as a supporter of abortion rights and a defender of women. But last night in Springfield he gave a clunky defense of his positions that relied heavily on personal anecdotes.
"We're both pro-choice, we both support Roe v. Wade, there's no secret about that. I believe, obviously, very much in women getting the same pay and benefits," he said
Brown, never one to miss a chance to play up his strong "one of us" credentials, did note that he didn't want to create conflicts for Catholics when it came to issues of contraception and abortion.
"I am not going to be pitting Catholics against their faith," he said.
Overall, his disorganized response to moderator Jim Madigan's question took away from what was otherwise a great debate for him. Brown's a moderate in a liberal state, and the abortion question is one he should have been better prepared to answer.
It's too soon to tell if this crucial exchange will be a major factor in the race, but it did highlight one of the few areas where Warren really outshines Brown.