BOSTON (AP) - A planned fourth and final debate in Massachusetts' contentious U.S. Senate race will not be rescheduled as the campaign entered its final stretch and a new poll showed Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren neck and neck with Republican incumbent Sen. Scott Brown.
The debate's organizers said the debate, which was originally scheduled for Tuesday but postponed because of the storm, has been canceled because the candidates couldn't agree on a new date.
Warren had agreed to participate in a rescheduled debate Thursday, but Brown had refused to say Tuesday whether he would take part despite pledging twice in recent days that a final debate would happen - even offering to give Warren a lift to the debate in the same pickup truck he's used in political ads.
Late Tuesday, a Brown spokesman said the campaign couldn't accommodate the fourth debate, pointing to what he called a long-planned bus tour.
"It is unfortunate that nature intervened in a way we all agreed made it inappropriate to carry on with the scheduled debate," spokesman Colin Reed said in a written statement.
On Monday morning, however, Brown said the debate would happen on Tuesday, if appropriate, "or the next day or the next day."
"Certainly, we're going to do it," Brown told reporters. "I think the people will want to hear where we stand on all the final issues ... before the election."
At a news conference Friday, Brown was equally emphatic, saying he would have no problem attending a final debate, even in inclement weather.
"That's why I have a truck: It has four-wheel drive," Brown said Friday. "If she needs a ride, happy to pick her up. I'll be there providing the electricity is on."
Late Monday, however, Brown pulled out of the debate and on Tuesday refused to commit to a rescheduled matchup.
"If you want to talk about storm stuff, happy to do it. If you want to talk about the campaign stuff, call the campaign," he told reporters during a visit to Quincy. "I've already had three debates. So we had two others that she didn't show up to. So obviously we've done debates, but we also have a schedule and we have limited time."
Warren campaign manager Mindy Myers said it's unfortunate that voters won't have a final chance to hear from both candidates.
"Elizabeth was working with the debate organizers to move forward on Thursday. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, Scott Brown is again ducking questions about his record voting on the side of big oil and billionaires," Myers said in a written statement late Tuesday.
Myers also said Warren had agreed to additional debates that Brown refused, including one in Worcester and another in the state's South Coast region as well as a forum hosted by the NAACP.
The debate originally was set for Tuesday but was delayed after first Brown and then Warren said they didn't want to take part at a time when many residents were struggling with the effects of a powerful storm that lashed the East Coast.
On Tuesday, Myers released a statement saying that while "our focus over the next 48 hours must be on public safety and holding the utilities accountable for restoring power," Warren had contacted debate organizers and agreed to a Thursday timeslot.
Also Tuesday, a Suffolk University and WHDH-TV poll showed a tight race. Warren had support from 53 percent of likely general election voters compared with 46 percent for Brown. Those findings fall within the margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The poll of 600 likely Massachusetts general election voters was conducted Oct. 25-28.
The Boston Globe released a poll Monday showing Brown and Warren in a dead heat. That poll showed each candidate receiving the support of 47 percent of those polled, including voters who are undecided but said which candidate they are leaning toward. Among that poll's likely voters, Brown received the support of 45 percent compared with 43 percent for Warren.
The poll of 583 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. It was conducted from Wednesday through Sunday.
Brown and Warren spent much of Tuesday touring the state to assess storm damage.
Brown began the day with a visit to an operations center in Rehoboth before touring Westport, visiting the Dartmouth Council on Aging and touring Quincy and Plum Island before heading to a Red Cross shelter in Newbury and visiting Gloucester.
Warren visited flooded areas near Horseneck Beach in Westport and in Scituate.
In Quincy, Brown deflected a question about whether he was using multiple appearances after the storm as a chance to boost his visibility ahead of Election Day.
"I'm the senator from Massachusetts and I have an obligation to, you know, do what I've done in other storms," Brown said.
The storm plunged hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents into darkness, but the state otherwise escaped the full brunt of its fury. Gov. Deval Patrick said the state may be able to lend a hand to other states that were in the direct path of the storm.