`Professor’ Warren: Shades of `Professor’ Moynihan (Who Won)

Photograph by Michael Dwyer/AP Photo

Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., left, and his Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, right, before their first debate along with moderator Jon Keller, center, on Sept. 20, 2012, in Boston.

If you watched the Sept. 20 Massachusetts U.S. Senate debate between Republican Senator Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, you couldn’t help but notice how Brown constantly referred to his opponent as “Professor Warren.”

“If you want someone who’s going to spend your tax dollars, give it to Professor Warren, she’ll spend them,” Brown said in one of more than 20 instances of his label for Warren, the Harvard University professor and onetime adviser to President Barack Obama on financial issues.

Brown is trying to paint Warren as an elitist who’s out of touch with middle-class voters. Warren says Brown’s votes on jobs bills aren’t in line with what most Massachusetts voters want.

Brown’s repeated use of “professor” to describe Warren reminded Political Capital of the 1976 U.S. Senate race in New York, pitting Republican incumbent Jim Buckley against Democratic challenger Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Buckley, seeking a second term and lagging in the polls, also used the“professor” label against Moynihan, a onetime academic at Harvard.

“Constantly referring to Moynihan as ‘Professor,’ Buckley played on the electorate’s presumed anti-intellectual bias,” Douglas Schoen wrote in a 1979 biography of Moynihan. Buckley “persisted in calling Moynihan ‘Professor,’ and accused him of wanting the government to spend what it did not have,” Godfrey Hodgson wrote in a 2000 biography.

“The mudslinging has begun,” Moynihan once said in response to Buckley calling him “professor.”

Moynihan won the election. Polls show a close race between Brown and Warren.

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