Edge to Brown, but bipartisan image suffers

Both candidates for US Senate scored points in Monday night’s debate, with many analysts giving the edge to Scott Brown. But Brown may have undercut his image as an independent, bipartisan voice in Washington by acknowledging his pledge to oppose any tax increases and embracing Antonin Scalia as his “model Supreme Court justice.”

As he has throughout the campaign, Brown went to great lengths in proclaiming his political independence in Washington. He said repeatedly that he doesn’t prejudge any piece of legislation and would work with members of both parties to craft solutions to the nation’s problems.

“We don’t need rock throwers,” he said, a reference to his Democratic rival, Elizabeth Warren. “We need people who are going to work together to find solutions.”

In that vein, Brown pounced on Warren’s failure to name any Republican senator she could work with in Washington other than outgoing Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana. Brown also continued to distance himself from Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for president and the senator’s own political mentor. Brown even said he might not vote for Mitch McConnell as his party’s leader in the Senate if he is re-elected. “Mitch McConnell has a lot of work to do to get my vote,” he said.

Yet Brown stumbled badly when asked whether he would support the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission, which recommended a combination of spending cuts and revenue-raising measures to address the federal deficit. He initially said he would keep an open mind on any deficit-cutting proposal, but after Warren pointed out that he had signed the Grover Norquist Americans for Tax Reform pledge not to raise taxes he acknowledged that he would not have an open mind on taxes.

“The more money you give Washington the more money they’re going to spend,” he said.

Brown’s independent, down-the-middle image also took a hit when he was asked by moderator David Gregory to name his model Supreme Court justice. He first said ultra-conservative justice Scalia. When he realized the implications of his choice, he quickly added Justices Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts Jr., and liberal Sonia Sotomayor. Warren picked only Elena Kagan, but neglected to mention that Brown had voted against her.

Democratic political consultant Dan Payne and Republican consultant Todd Domke agreed: Brown won the debate (Here’s Payne’s analysis and Domke’s.) The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld led the tabloid’s praise of Brown. The Globe’s Glen Johnson highlighted some illuminating stumbles by both candidates, while Scot Lehigh was miffed about Brown’s return to Native American issues, and Joanna Weiss seemed to give the nod to Brown.

The Lowell Sun suggested there were no knockout punches. The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan offered “six takeaways” from the debate that ranged from the serious to the banal, while the Globe news story noted Brown’s big line (“Excuse me, I’m not a student in your classroom. Let me respond.”) was recycled from 2009. Gregory, the moderator, won points from some analysts for pinning the candidates down, but others thought he was too busy debating the candidates to let them debate each other. Dan Kennedy thinks it might qualify as the worst debate ever

                                                                                                    –BRUCE MOHL

BEACON HILL

Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, a Republican who has often sparred with Gov. Deval Patrick, is threatening to shut down his county lock-up unless the state finds more money for his budget.

Lowell Sun columnist Peter Lucas savages Patrick again for spending more time out of state than running this state.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Globe’s Sean Murphy has more details on the sordid operation run by former Chelsea housing authority director Michael McLaughlin, with millions of dollars in federal funds intended to rehab public housing units diverted to other uses, including “an enormous slush fund” that benefited McLaughlin’s friends and family.

Municipal officials are trying to limit the number of bank branches popping up in their communities, the Boston Business Journal reports.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is pushing to legalize online poker during Congress’s lame-duck session, The Hill reports.

WBUR examines the individual cost of Washington ignoring the approaching fiscal cliff.

The Boston Herald calls the Obama administration’s reaction to the Libya embassy attack a cover up.

ELECTION 2012

The Weekly Standard gives the nation a cliched, superficial look at the Brown-Warren race. Warren releases a list of the legal work that she has performed. The Patriot Ledger reports that holes are appearing in the “People’s Pledge” pact as outside groups are finding ways to spend money to influence the race.

In advance of tomorrow’s first presidential debate, the Globe looks at how MItt Romney climbed back from behind in his successful 2002 run for governor. Behind is where Romney finds himself in New Hampshire, a state where he owns a vacation home and has been a “familiar face.” Apparently, the legend of Paul Ryan is fading fast.

The Salem News examines two polls with very different views of the race between US Rep. John Tierney and Richard Tisei. The candidates hurl accusations at each other in the Lynn Item.

Robert Draper takes an in-depth look at Mitt Romney’s time as governor as Massachusetts for the New York Times Magazine.

PHILANTHROPY

Four Boston-area residents are among the 23 people awarded MacArthur “genius” grants.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Rising prices and demand coupled with fewer donations have squeezed South Coast food pantries, which are struggling to feed more people because of the ongoing recession.

It is a tough year for New England apple orchards, whose growing season was whipsawed by bursts of unusually cold and hot weather.

The slow economic recovery isn’t affecting all regions of the US, finds The Atlantic. Some areas, like San Jose, New Orleans, and Austin, are recovering much faster than others.

Foreign Policy takes a look at how China’s one-child policy and resulting gender imbalance is contributing to a real estate bubble as more and more men buy houses in hopes of attracting a wife.

EDUCATION

John Schneider, director of Gateway Strategic Initiatives for the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association and former MassINC executive vice president, looks at charter school expansion in western Massachusetts and calls on business leaders to join the push to lift the cap on those schools.

The Republican likes the state’s grant-funded initiative to boost the academic performance of community college students.

HEALTH CARE

WBUR’s Martha Bebinger offers some interesting insights on her $8,000 MRI at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

Newly released Census data shows the economy could be keeping people from going to doctors, with the average number of trips to medical providers down nearly 20 percent from a decade ago. One other possible reason is that there appears to be a shortage of certain types of doctors, WBUR reports.

TRANSPORTATION

American Airlines pilots aren’t too happy since a bankruptcy judge threw out their contract, which means work slowdowns are the order of the day.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Weather Channel decides to give names to blizzards.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A Lawrence woman is sentenced to three months in prison for beating a cat so badly that it had to be put down, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Hingham police are praising a 71-year-old retiree for forcing an alleged drunken driver with two children in his car to pull off the road. It’s the second time in a month a citizen has halted an alleged drunken driver in Hingham.

MEDIA

The Washington Post expands into health care, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The Nieman Journalism Lab explains what a $25,000 Knight grant to the Boston Globe and the MIT Media Lab will be used for.