The first step towards winning a debate is showing up.
That almost didn't happen for Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., who is scheduled to face off tonight against Senate challenger Elizabeth Warren at 7 p.m. in Boston.
As of 3:30 p.m. ET, Brown was still in Washington, held up by the prospect of late-night votes in the Senate on a continuing resolution to fund the government that needs to get passed before Congress goes into recess.
This afternoon, Brown said that he would need to stay in Washington and skip the debate if there turned out to be late-night votes.
That prompted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to declare that there would be no votes tonight. As he did so, Reid suggested Brown was trying to use the Senate as an excuse to get out of his debate.
"It's obvious to me what's going on," Reid said. "I've been to a few of these rodeos. It is obvious there is a big stall taking place. One of the senators who don't want to debate tonight won't be in a debate. While he can't use the Senate as an excuse, there will be no more votes today."
Legislators were hoping to pass the bill on the continuing resolution tonight, no matter how late, so that the Senate would not need to be in session on Friday and so they could get back to their districts instead.
But Reid insisted that Brown not use the Senate as cover to miss the debate tonight.
"We want the debate to go forward," Reid said. "We're in a very important Senate race across the country. We'll vote tomorrow morning or do tomorrow night after midnight."
The ferocity of the debate in the Senate over the Massachusetts debate showed just how important the marquee Senate race is to the balance of the next Senate - so much so that it's influencing timing of votes and session schedules.
As it turned out, Brown arrived at a Washington, D.C.-area airport and aides expected him to make tonight's debate in Boston on time.