BOSTON (AP) -- After months of dueling press releases and television ads, Massachusetts voters will finally get a chance to size up Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren in a live televised debate.
Tonight’s match-up -- the first of four planned -- could help voters begin to sort through a flurry of claims and counterclaims the two candidates have hurled at each other in what is seen by both national parties as a key contest as they wrestle for control of the Senate.
Brown has tried to frame Warren as an out-of-touch academic and "founder of that radical Occupy protest movement" who’s determined to raise taxes and undermine free enterprise.
Warren, in turn, has worked to portray Brown as a friend of Wall Street and big business who sides with oil companies and millionaires and is an unreliable vote on women’s issues.
The debate -- which gives each candidate the opportunity to level those charges directly to their rival -- carries risks and opportunities for both.
For Brown, the debate offers the chance to continue his outreach to independent voters, Democrats and women -- all three key demographics for any Massachusetts Repub lican candidate.
About 52 percent of Massa chusetts voters are not enrolled in any party, compared to about 36 percent who are registered Democrats and 11 percent who are registered Republicans.
Brown has repeatedly portrayed himself as an independent voice, willing to work across the political aisle.
For Warren, the debates offer her a chance to deepen the voting public’s sense of familiarity with her. Warren also needs to protect and increase her backing among women and Democrats while appealing to as wide a swath of independent voters as possible.
Polls continue to show a close contest with neither candidate able to build a substantial lead.
The other televised debates are planned in Lowell, Spring field and Boston before Election Day, Nov. 6.