BOSTON (AP) — As Massachusetts' epic Senate battle races toward Election Day, voters are facing a stark choice — whether to return a popular Republican incumbent to office or elect the state's first woman to the U.S. Senate, a Democrat making her debut political campaign.
The contest pitting Scott Brown against Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law professor, has been one of the hardest fought, most personal, and by far the most costly, political dogfights in Bay State history.
As of mid-October, Brown and Warren had spent a combined $68 million on the race.
Riding on the election is not only one of the state's two U.S. Senate seats, but possibly the balance of power in the Senate, now in the hands of Democrats. Both national parties see the Massachusetts contest as key to their path to political control of the chamber.
Brown has worked throughout the campaign to portray himself as a bipartisan, independent voice who considers each bill on its merits and votes for the best interest of Massachusetts residents, regardless of party.
His closing television ad of the campaign makes no mention of his GOP roots, but instead features an image of Democratic President Barack Obama and concludes with the tag line: "Vote The Person. Not The Party."
"Things would be a lot better in this country if more people in Washington were willing to think for themselves and work with each other," Brown says in the ad, adding "I am nobody's senator except yours."
Warren has worked equally hard to cast herself as a fighter for the middle class, pointing to her work helping create the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She's also won praise from Obama, who called her "a strong, tireless and determined advocate."
"Know this, my fight is for you, always has been and I won't back down, no matter how long the odds or how powerful the opposition," Warren says in her closing ad of the campaign, adding "if you send me to the Senate, I'll work my heart out for you."
But Warren has also tried to warn of what she said could be the consequences of Brown's re-election. She's said that while Brown has taken "some good votes," re-electing him could put the Senate into the hands of a far more conservative Republican majority.
Warren says that could have dire consequences for women's health care services, including access to abortion and contraceptives.
While both Warren and Brown describe themselves as "pro-choice," Warren has faulted Brown for co-sponsoring a measure that would allow employers and insurance companies to refuse coverage for health services, including contraception, on moral grounds.
Brown said he was trying to protect the religious convictions of Roman Catholics, but Warren said a GOP-controlled Senate could go further, even jeopardizing the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
Brown has instead tried to focus on economic issues, portraying Warren as a tax-and-spend liberal in part because of her support of the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act, which he refers to as "Obamacare." Brown, who has taken a no-new-taxes pledge, said the act would lead to higher taxes for businesses and families in Massachusetts.