Political Intelligence

October offers rocking lineup of political debates

Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren before the first debate, at WBZ-TV, with moderator John Keller in the background.
Barry Chin/Globe staff
Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren before the first debate, at WBZ-TV, with moderator John Keller in the background.

October is usually defined by crisp fall weather, Columbus Day weekend, and Halloween. Yet this year, the dates that may command more attention are the seven featuring political debates in the hotly contested US presidential and Massachusetts senatorial races.

Senator Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren, his Democratic challenger, hold the second of their four-debate series Monday night at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. David Gregory, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” will moderate the hourlong face-off.

It will not only feature two student questions, but will be held before a crowd of 5,700 crammed into the Tsongas Center. Each candidate was ­allotted 500 tickets, so expect some whooping and hollering.


Two nights later, in Denver, President Obama and his ­Republican rival, Mitt Romney, will hold the first of their three debates.

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Brown and Warren are set to meet again Oct. 10 in Springfield, before wrapping up on Oct. 30 with a debate in Boston.

Obama and Romney, meanwhile, are scheduled to debate Oct. 16 in Hempstead, N.Y., and Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla. In between, Vice President Joe Biden and Romney running mate Paul Ryan will have their own debate Oct. 11 in Kentucky.

The most immediate pressure is on Brown and Warren, who had a feisty encounter Sept. 20 during their first ­debate. Several recent polls have shown Warren with a lead over Brown, but the race ­remains close.

Members of the Brookline-based Speech Improvement Co. gave Warren a slight edge over Brown in their first ­debate, although they were complimentary of both candidates.


“Every time he said, ‘Your tax dollars,’ or, ‘All you union guys,’ he looked right into the camera and pointed. That was an excellent technique, and he used it very well,” said Dennis Becker, who cofounded the company in 1964.

Becker said that Warren, a champion debater in high school, was effective in prefacing many of her answers.

“She said, ‘Well, let’s be clear’ six times, and, ‘Here’s how I see it’ four times,” he said. “This is an attempt to say, ‘I’m easier to communicate with, and I will be clearer with you than the other guy.’”

Becker and two colleagues who also watched the debate found that both Brown and Warren were nervous, especially at the start of the ­debate. And they said the two appeared to forget that the camera was always on them,­ even when their opponent was speaking.

That can cause a candidate to lose ground, even without saying a word.


“Viewers are looking at the candidates to see how they’re taking a verbal attack,” said The Speech Improvement Co.’s Monica Murphy.

Murray’s trip to Germany

While Governor Deval ­Patrick had his hands full this past week handling the fallout from the state drug lab collapse, his number two, Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray, was overseas.

Murray was in Germany, leading a weeklong economic and cultural trade mission in his capacity as chairman of the National Lieutenant Governors Association.

He left Sept. 22 and arrived the following day in Dresden. By Wednesday, he was in Leipzig, and Thursday he visited Berlin for a series of meetings that included a session with US Ambassador Philip D. Murray.

He was scheduled to remain in the German capital until Sunday, continuing his meetings and visiting a medical device manufacturer with a plant in Massachusetts, ­before flying home.

The timing for Murray and his fellow lieutenant governors was fortuitous: They were in Germany for the first week of Oktoberfest.

Huntsman to speak at BC

Former Utah Governor
Jon Huntsman will be in ­Romney’s backyard this week.

The former Republican presidential contender is visiting Boston College Tuesday for a lecture hosted by the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics.

He will talk about “leadership, foreign affairs, and presidential politics,” according to a lecture announcement.

Kerry gets new spokesman

Senator John Kerry has a new press secretary after his longtime spokeswoman, Whitney Smith, left to pursue a master’s degree at the ­London School of Economics.

Replacing her is Alec ­Gerlach, former spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, Representative Dale Kildee of Michigan, and the House Committee on ­Energy and Commerce.

Most recently, Gerlach has been working for The Glover Park Group, a Washington-based public relations firm.

He will be based in Kerry’s Capitol Hill office, but will speak with Massachusetts ­reporters, so the public will begin seeing his name in print.

Glen Johnson is lead blogger for Political Intelligence, ­which can be seen online at
He can be reached at ­johnson@globe. com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.