The two candidates in one of the nation’s most closely watched U.S. Senate races will meet tonight in Springfield in what will likely be a spirited debate.
Republican Sen. Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren are set to take the stage at Springfield Symphony Hall for their third televised debate of the election season – and the only match-up taking place in the western part of the state.
The contest follows two debates in which the candidates traded jabs over everything from Brown’s voting record to tax policy to Warren’s Native American heritage claims.
And it comes on the heels of two new polls showing that the race for the seat could still go either way.
A poll of likely Bay State voters conducted between Oct. 5 -7 by Boston-based NPR station WBUR and the MassInc Polling Group shows Brown leading Warren by 4 percentage points, 47 percent to 43 percent. But a survey conducted by the University of Massachusetts between Oct. 2 -8 gives Warren the edge by 2 percentage points among likely voters, 48 percent to 46 percent.
“The Massachusetts Senate race is not a mirror image of the presidential race,” Ray La Raja, an associate professor of political science at UMass and one of the associate directors of the UMass poll, said in a statement. “By a fairly wide margin, President Obama remains more popular among un-enrolled Massachusetts voters than Elizabeth Warren, while Mitt Romney is easily eclipsed by Scott Brown among this same group. In a fairly liberal state, it suggests that Brown has done a good job insulating himself from Romney and the national Republican Party.”
Both Brown and Warren have released a multitude of television ads in recent weeks, many of which go after each other’s record. And some of that rhetoric will likely be reiterated at tonight’s debate.
“This debate is a key part of one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country,” Page Brody, the executive director of the Springfield Public Forum – which is organizing the debate in conjunction with a litany of news outlets, Western New England University and UMass – said in a statement. “It puts a national spotlight on the candidates and provides Springfield and western Massachusetts with an opportunity to host a high-profile, high stakes event.”
Seating at Symphony Hall is expected to be at full capacity for the debate, with all 2,611 seats full, according to a press release. Tickets for the contest were quickly swept up when they were handed out several weeks ago.
The debate, which will be moderated by Jim Madagin of Springfield-based PBS station WGBY, will kick off at 7 p.m. and last for about an hour. It will be available as a simulcast live on ABC40 and FOX6, CBS3, WGBY 57 and WFCR 88.5 FM.