About 20 minutes into Wednesday’s debate between Senator Scott Brown and Democrat Elizabeth Warren, moderator Jim Madigan asked the candidates for examples of federal spending they would cut if they win next month’s election. Warren was ready with two ultra-safe answers: She would vote to slash agricultural subsidies and the defense budget. For a liberal Democrat running for office in deep-blue Massachusetts, where amber waves of grain are about as common as crowded military recruiters’ offices, those are easy cuts to endorse.
Yet within half an hour, Warren’s line had shifted. Perhaps it was hearing Brown’s repeated references to his connections to the Barnes Air National Guard base in Westfield and the Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, or perhaps it had dawned on her that even in Massachusetts some voters serve in uniform, but suddenly defense cuts weren’t such a terrific idea. Asked about support for a national base-closing commission, Warren not only declared her opposition to across-the-board reductions in defense spending, but swore to protect Massachusetts military installations from the loss of a dime.