Brown and Warren head way out west

All things Western Massachusetts get a rare opportunity to shine when Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren take their campaign cage match to Springfield tonight.

The candidates’ early vows to keep the US Senate race positive now seem positively quaint.  In an age where political campaigns study polls like tablets from on high and react accordingly, Brown shows no sign of giving up his preoccupation with Warren’s Native American heritage,  even in the face of surveys that show that not only that voters are no longer interested in the issue, they hold him responsible for the race’s negative turn.  

Will the tenor of conversation shift now that the debate locale has moved away from the metro Boston echo chamber to Western Mass.?

Political pros take the region more seriously than the Boston-obsessed who dismiss the region as “west of Worcester.“ Former governor Jane Swift of Williamstown, tells WBUR that voters there are “pragmatic” rather than ideological and notes that Brown’s “bipartisan approach” appeals.

“I think western Massachusetts is heaven,” swoons Massachusetts Democratic Party chairman John Walsh. “It’s loaded with Democrats who are smart and vote a lot.” Those smart Democrats have given Warren a cushy lead over Brown in Western Massachusetts. A Western New England University poll shows her leading the senator 58 percent to 41 percent in the region.

The Boston Herald suggests, in a race where neither candidate is running away with it all, the western Mass debate has higher stakes for Warren, and Democrats may pay more attention to get-out-the-vote efforts there in the waning days of the campaign.

More likely, however, is the scenario that both candidates will continue to woo the independents and the undecided in voter-rich metro Boston.  A Boston Globe analysis of the candidates’ travel records indicates that both Brown and Warren have done most of their campaigning in the Boston media market, making western Mass voters “the biggest losers.”

Western Massachusetts voters may want to hear more about are topics like public transportation but they may get short shift.  Neither Brown nor Warren has exactly set the state on fire with Oxford-style debating skills on the issues that matter most.

Both the local and nation media continue to focus on more opaque concerns like the types of legal clients that Brown and Warren have had. Or the scope of Brown’s involvement in his daughter Ayla’s singing career after he went to Washington. Mandy Hofmockel of MassLive.com, in her “5 things to watch for” roundup, says, “both candidates will likely continue their pointed attacks as the time before the election slips away.”

Neither Brown nor Warren has had much to say about transportation or how they would insure that Massachusetts gets its fair share of dwindling federal transportation dollars. Yet issues like the area’s marquee transportation project, the high-speed rail line linking Springfield, Hartford, and New Haven, dominate economic development conversations in the region.

But James Corless, the director of Transportation for America, had this to say at a Tuesday State House press conference on federal transportation funding: “Whoever wins your US Senate race in November is going to be very important to the future of federal transportation programs.”

For political junkies, hope springs eternal. With the debate moderated by public television’s Jim Madigan of WGBY Springfield, viewers may actually get a substantive discussion.

Madigan has asked for questions from voters, and a small sampling of those questions shows that voters are more interested in topics like medical marijuana, the environment, and rural transportation than they are about Warren’s Native American ancestry.  But can Madigan or Brown or Warren resist the Big Bird in the room? Stay tuned.

                                                                                                                                                    –GABRIELLE GURLEY

BEACON HILL

Restaurant groups oppose a bill passed by the House that would require establishments that seat fewer than 25 people to have someone on staff trained in procedures for saving a patron who is choking, the State House News reports (via Eagle-Tribune). The law until now had exempted smaller restaurants.

The Framingham pharmacy company at the center of a national outbreak of meningitis from tainted medical supplies owns another firm that has a top executive who sits on the state board that regulates pharmacies, the Globe reports.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Attorney General Martha Coakley ruled that a Middleboro ordinance banning the public use of f-bombs and other profanity is unconstitutional.

The Beverly City Council considers offering developers along a particular street a 100 percent property tax break for the first five years of a project, the Salem News reports.

It’s a fixer-upper but the 175-year old Taunton District Courthouse will be put out to bidders.

Leominster city councilors battle the mayor over expired executive appointments.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

That “bipartisan” congressional investigation into the attack on the embassy in Libya that killed four people is excluding Democrats, the Democrats charge.

On Radio Boston, Thomas P. O’Neill III gives his view of the bipartisan bonhomie of his father and Ronald Reagan, and says Washington today is nothing like it was then.

ELECTION 2012

A new poll indicates Elizabeth Warren may be able to cash in on the desire of many voters to see the Senate remain under the control of the Democrats, the Lowell Sun reports.The National Review weighs in on Warren’s legal work and whether it has negated her blue-collar cred. WBUR reports that Brown and Warren continue to wrangle over their legal work.

Andrew Goldman, writing in The New Republic, has a must-read for Massachusetts insiders on how Mitt Romney came to hate the press. The Globe’s Frank Phillips has something to do with it. Romney, the formerly severely conservative governor, tacks leftward, pledging to retain tax breaks for mortgage interest, and taking a hands-off stance toward abortion. What would Ted Kennedy say?

Sesame Street asks the Obama campaign to pull its Big Bird ad.

House Speaker John Boehner raises cash for Republican congressional candidate Richard Tisei, prompting Democrats to label Tisei a darling of the right, CommonWealth reports. Here is the State House News Service report, via the Salem News. After his stop in Boston, Boehner heads to a fundraiser in Connecticut for Republican congressional candidate Andrew Roraback and creates some awkward moments for him, NECN reports.

Joseph Kennedy III, who debates his Republican opponent Sean Bielat this afternoon in Fall River, agrees to do another televised debate on Fox’s Channel 25, the Globe reports.

Jack Welch doubles down on his job-numbers-fixing claims in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, while the New York Times all but calls him a nut.

Dr. Timothy Johnson, in a Globe op-ed, says the state-based approach to health care favored by Romney is a recipe for disaster.

Hanson officials will hold a public hearing tonight to decide whether to force a local businessman to remove controversial and slightly obscene anti-Obama and anti-Warren signs he has erected on his property.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

On WBUR’s website, economists Barry Bluestone and Katharine Bradbury offer their views on what the next president should do to address income inequality.

Will the new casino gambling law save the state’s horse racing industry?  Don’t bet on it.

Meditech plans to build an office complex and conference center in Foxboro. CommonWealth previously wrote about the company’s run-in with the Massachusetts Historical Commission in Freetown.

The US sues Wells Fargo over bad FHA mortgages. Time, meanwhile, sees more signs of strength in the housing market.

RELIGION

The Vatican advised a group of parishioners at St. John the Baptist Church in New Bedford to get an attorney familiar with canonical law if they want to petition to keep the church open.

EDUCATION

Bristol Community College has received a $600,000 state grant to help build and erect a wind turbine on campus.

HEALTH CARE

It’s not just the state-of-the-art medicine practiced at Partners HealthCare hospitals that is complicated; the parent company of Mass. General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals uses a bevy of complex financial strategies to manage its $7.5 billion in assets, the Globe reports.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Environmental activists have filed their plan to sue the owner of the Pilgrim nuclear power station in Plymouth for polluting Cape Cod Bay with chemical discharges and superheated water runoff for the past 16 years.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency removed 63 detainees from the Bristol House of Correction over concerns for their safety after other inmates staged a protest to a lockdown by Sheriff Thomas Hodgson. The lockdown is part of an ongoing dispute between Hodgson and Gov. Deval Patrick over the sheriff’s budget.

A federal grand jury indicted a Plymouth police sergeant for allegedly assaulting a cuffed suspect in a cell then lying about it in his report.

MEDIA

Dennis Lehane has a run-in with the Globe book review section, which accused him of trafficking in racist stereotypes in describing a character who, it turns out, is white.