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opinion | JOAN VENNOCHI

A night of smirks and verbal jabs

 Elizabeth Warren greets supporters as she arrives for the debate.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Elizabeth Warren greets supporters as she arrives for the debate.

The woman who made Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner squirm made Senator Scott Brown sweat.

Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat who is challenging the incumbent Republican, was poised and collected — just as you might expect from a Harvard professor with years of experience testifying in Washington before Geithner and assorted members of Congress.

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She didn’t flinch when Brown kicked off their first debate by taking off the nice guy gloves and challenging her character over her decision to “check the box” as a Native American. But she also didn’t explain it beyond what she has already said about family lore. And she ignored Brown’s request that she release her personnel records to clear up the heritage issue.

Does it matter? That first attack was all Brown had for much of a debate that rocked with smirks and verbal jabs.

Warren worked hard to cut through Brown’s constant effort to portray himself as bipartisan. She kept pointing to his actual votes – against the jobs bill, against tax cuts for the middle class, for oil subsidies, for the Blunt amendment, and against the confirmation of Elena Kagan as a Supreme Court justice.

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Brown, who is fighting to keep the seat that was held for decades by the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, seemed rattled at times. But he fought back hard, describing himself as “guilty as charged” when it comes to voting against taxes. He repeatedly accused Warren of being someone who wants to put taxpayer money into a “piggybank” and bring it to Washington.

He scored some points at the end, when he brought up Warren’s representation of an insurance company against worker claims of asbestos poisoning: “She didn’t fight for the victims,” he declared.

Was he too tough? He wasn’t as tough on her as she was on him.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at
vennochi@globe.com
. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.
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