By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Thoughts on the debate

As I did with the first gubernatorial debate, I listened (transcript here) on my way to work this morning and did not see it. Obviously the visuals are important, but I’ll trade that for being able to do more than one thing at a time. (And thanks to WBUR Radio, 90.9 FM, for providing a nice, clear online feed.)

Besides, it’s not as though the exchanges were all that gripping. Kerry Healey’s performance struck me as improved: She managed to get off a few shots at Deval Patrick, especially on taxes and the potential dangers of one-party government, without getting bogged down by Christy Mihos.

Patrick, once again, was OK — good enough, perhaps, to sit on his commanding lead. But even though he was a little more fiesty in going after Healey, one thing hadn’t changed: He was largely able to float above the fray, letting Mihos pound away at Healey.

Green-Rainbow Party candidate Grace Ross acquitted herself well, but she’s got two problems. Four years ago, Green Party candidate Jill Stein won over a number of progressives who were not exactly enamored of the insider Democratic candidate, Shannon O’Brien. This time, Patrick seems to have nailed down the progressive wing for the Democrats.

The other problem is that voters want to hear candidates tell stories about themselves, to connect with their lives. Yet Ross has kept her status as an out lesbian under wraps in the two debates, even though she was tossed a softball on same-sex marriage last night. “Come on Grace, represent,” writes Laura Kiritsy in Bay Windows. (Thanks to Adam Reilly for the link.) Apparently Ross is more comfortable as an issues wonk.

Finally, a word about last night’s moderator, television newsman James Maddigan. There’s an old saying that no one pays to see the umpire. I know the moderator’s job can be difficult. But his incessant interruptions, cutting people off for going over their time limit even when they were obviously seconds away from wrapping up, were an annoying distraction.

No doubt the rules were set by the campaigns, not by Maddigan. But what would best serve the public is a single moderator whose job is not to enforce time limits, but who uses his or her judgment to go with the flow, to poke and prod when needed, and to make sure everyone gets roughly equal treatment.

Is there any chance of that happening in the remaining debates?


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5 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Bring back Keller.

  2. Anonymous

    I usually agree with you Dan, but not here. I think the candidates went on too long generally, especially Mihos. Why have that rule if it is not enforced?I think your idea could not be enforced fairly, and candidates would be more long-winded without any benefit to the voters.

  3. Doodle

    Was this debate aired in Eastern MAss?I know it originated in Springfield….but who carried the TV feed here in Boston?I didn’t see it.

  4. Anonymous

    It was on NECN and WGBH. I too had difficulty tracking down where I could actually watch the debate as none of the other local stations made any mention of it, which I guess, is somewhat understandable. However, I was also hard pressed to find any info from Boston.com, the Boston Globe or the Boston Herald.

  5. Anonymous

    Anon 9:57 – On Tuesday, the Globe had a small gray box inside the Metro Section which contained all broadcast outlets. This was next to the main article on the debate itself. The Globe should keep doing this. The Herlad made no mention at all as to where you could see or hear it.

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