MELROSE — US Senator Scott Brown and challenger Elizabeth Warren both brought decorated military veterans to campaign with them in Massachusetts on Saturday, putting the focus on veterans’ issues as the Senate campaign heads into its final stretch.
Brown, a Republican, campaigned with Arizona Senator John McCain, stopping at the Corrib Pub in West Roxbury after a rally at the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall here. Warren stumped with Max Cleland, a former Georgia senator and a decorated Vietnam veteran.
The presence of the two nationally known political figures underscored how the Massachusetts Senate race is being watched closely by partisans around the country because it could determine which party controls the Senate next year.
The rah-rah energy of both campaigns, on a beautiful day of old-fashioned rallies and retail politicking, also showed how both Brown and Warren are trying to motivate their supporters for the final leg of the hard-fought contest.
Hundreds cheered as McCain, Brown, and congressional candidate Richard Tisei entered the hall, packed with supporters, including a large contingent of veterans.
“The eyes of the world — not the nation, the eyes of the world —
“I’m going to ask our men and women who have served to go on one more mission — one more mission between now and the next 17 days. Do everything you can. I’m asking you to get out and vote, get our people out, and make sure you call everyone you know. Call your mother-in-law.”
McCain, who lost the presidential race to Obama in 2008, beat George W. Bush in the Massachusetts Republican primary in 2000 and is popular among state Republicans. He said he’s campaigning for many candidates across the country but Brown is the one he wants to serve with most. He pointed to Brown’s 32 years in the National Guard and his advocacy for active service members and veterans.
“Scott has gone to Afghanistan. He’s gone to Kabul,” said McCain. “I don’t believe you have to have served in the military to be a good senator.” But, he said, military experience is an asset when “this nation is in decline and under attack everywhere in the world because of the feckless foreign policy of Barack Obama.”
Brown, who was joined briefly on the stage with his wife, Gail Huff, and daughters, Ayla and Arianna, attacked Warren as a big spender who will always toe the party line, though he didn’t mention her by name.
“If you want someone who is going to spend your money, you know who that candidate is,” Brown said. “If you want someone who is going to protect your money and give you an opportunity to grow and expand and get out of this economic mess, I’m your candidate.”
Outside the Melrose hall, Warren supporters, hoisting giant blue and white signs, lined both sides of Main Street.
Later, as Brown campaigned with McCain, Cleland led a bus tour of military veterans for Warren. The tour, which included local mayors and state legislators who have served in the military, was scheduled to make stops in Melrose, Waltham, Beverly, Hopkinton, and Quincy.
In Beverly, Cleland and Warren entered the First Baptist Church to the strains of “Happy Days Are Here Again,” played in a martial style by a live brass band. Hundreds of supporters who were packed into the pews exploded into cheers and waved blue Warren for Senate placards.
Cleland spoke first, pointing out that Warren’s three older brothers, including one who served in more than 280 combat missions in Vietnam, were in the military. He praised Warren for hiring Holly Petraeus, the wife of General David H. Petraeus, to work on veterans’ financial issues at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the new federal agency Warren helped create.
“This is a very special woman,” Cleland said. “The reason I know that is I looked at her binder.”
The crowd roared with laughter, recognizing Cleland’s remark as a reference to Mitt Romney’s line at last week’s presidential debate about how he’s reviewed “whole binders full of women.”
Warren called Cleland “an honest-to-goodness war hero,” and said she learned about the importance of the military from her brothers.
“Growing up at the dinner table with those boys was something,” she said. “I came to understand that our military folks and their families are tough, smart, and resourceful. And we are deeply grateful as a country for them.”
In Melrose, Tisei, a state senator from Wakefield before he ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2010, called the upcoming election one that will “determine the future of our country.”
He and the man he is trying to unseat, District 6 Representative John Tierney, are opposites on most issues, Tisei said.
“We have a congressman who has a totally different opinion than everybody who is here in the room,” Tisei said. “He thinks that higher taxes are good for our country. He’s one of those guys who thinks Washington knows best. He’s going to tell you what’s best for you to do. “
“Don’t you think it’s time we elected someone who is open and honest with people?” said Tisei, a veiled reference to the gambling controversy that has engulfed the campaign. Tierney’s wife, Patrice, pleaded guilty to helping file false fax returns for her brother Robert Eremian, a fugitive from justice. Tierney has denied knowing about the illegal nature of Eremian’s business.
Tierney, who spoke at the Beverly rally before Warren and Cleland entered the room, got a standing ovation from the crowd, composed mostly of diehard Democrats.
He accused the Republicans of launching personal attacks instead of focusing on the issues.