Tuesday’s debate between Senator Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren, which was to be the fourth and final matchup in their nationally watched Senate race, was canceled after Brown withdrew, citing the hardships faced by residents in the path of Hurricane Sandy.
It was not clear if the debate, which was sponsored by a consortium of news outlets, including the Globe, would be rescheduled, with just seven days left until Election Day. Soon after Brown’s campaign announced Monday afternoon that he was pulling out of the debate, Warren’s campaign said she, too, would cancel.
Neither candidate jumped at the chance to schedule a new date. Brown’s campaign told the debate sponsors that one possible date, on Thursday, would conflict with a bus tour the senator has been planning. Warren’s campaign indicated it would evaluate the storm’s impact Tuesday and decide whether another date might be possible.
The debate, which was to be moderated by CNN’s John King and broadcast live on several television stations, was designed to allow voters to hear directly from the candidates as many potential voters are tuning into the race for the first time. A Globe poll found that 39 percent of likely voters had not watched previous debates.
It has been nearly three weeks since Brown and Warren last debated in Springfield, and both candidates are locked in a dead heat, according to the Globe poll.
But Brown’s campaign said Monday that the hurricane had prompted the senator to withdraw. “It is simply not appropriate to go forward with a political debate when a disaster strikes,” Brown’s spokesman, Colin Reed, said in a statement. “The focus for all of us before, during, and after the storm needs to be on emergency response and disaster relief, not campaigns and politics.”
Warren’s campaign soon followed with its own statement canceling her appearance. “Elizabeth believes the focus now must be on public safety and ensuring people get the help they need during the storm and in its aftermath,” said Mindy Myers, Warren’s campaign manager. “With the concern for public safety and cleanup paramount, Elizabeth believes the debate should not be held tomorrow.”
The media consortium sponsoring the debate responded by saying it hoped to reschedule.
“The Boston Media Consortium anticipated a possible debate delay because of the storm and, for that reason, had offered an alternative date to the campaigns,” the consortium said in a statement. “We are working with the campaigns to reschedule the debate, to serve the interests of the people of Massachusetts.”
President Obama and Mitt Romney have been canceling some of their campaign appearances, as well, as Sandy hits several battleground states where they had been planning rallies.
Tuesday’s debate was to be broadcast live at 7 p.m. on WGBH-TV (Channel 2), WCVB-TV (Channel 5), NECN, WHDH-TV (Channel 7), WBUR-FM (90.9), and Bloomberg Radio and live-streamed on BostonGlobe.com and Boston.com.
It was scheduled months ago, after delicate negotiations with both campaigns.
Brown had initially said last summer that he wanted three or four debates, but two of those would be low-profile radio appearances he had accepted. Warren, for her part, balked at those radio debates, and said she wanted four television face-offs. For weeks, the candidates wrangled over the locations, sponsors, and dates. At one particularly acrimonious juncture in early June, Brown’s campaign refused to negotiate directly with Warren’s campaign over the debate schedule.
Later, Brown made headlines when he rejected a debate at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Dorchester because Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the senator’s widow and the institute’s president, refused to agree to not endorse Warren.
Eventually, both agreed to four televised debates.
When the schedule was finalized in late June, Brown’s campaign boasted: “By Election Day, Senator Brown will have participated in six debates, the most of any incumbent Massachusetts senator in 16 years.”
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