I love the word gubernatorial. Especially when combined with my old governor Arnold 'the governator' Schwarzenegger; I much prefer calling him 'the gubernator'. Anyway....
Last night was the first debate in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race. I watched it, or at least thought I had. Now that I've read some of the responses to it (one from Hub Politics
, and one from Hub Blog
for starters), I'm not so sure. Everyone seems to be proclaiming that either Patrick wiped the floor with Healey, or vice versa. I don't particularly recall either of those things happening. About the only thing I recognize from the accounts that I've read is that Mihos really went after Healey, that Ross was fairly ineffectual, and that Healey consistently attempted to frame the debate as being solely between herself and Patrick.
Beyond that, here's what I saw (and it doesn't seem to be what most people saw):
Healey, despite her experience and current position as Lieutenant Governor, seemed to have a tough time with the debate. She was not particularly well-spoken and, in my opinion, didn't do a very good job of presenting herself. From what I've read since, this is fairly normal for her (Although many Republicans seem to think that she somehow transcended that last night and did a wonderful job. I suppose that when you set the bar low, it's not hard to surpass it...) Ignoring her somewhat lackluster performance, she didn't present herself very well. I got the impression that she was nothing but a politician, and had none of the qualities required of a true statesman and leader.
Patrick also was not as well spoken as I expected him to be, but from what I understand this is not the norm for him, and I still think he did a better job than Healey. He did, however, despite that do an excellent job of presenting himself. I got the impression from his performance that he really is an excellent statesman. He knew his stuff, and was on top of his answers. He did an excellent job, I think, of addressing the questions directed at him given the constraints of the format (a timed debate is not the setting in which to expound on the details of your position). He also managed to be courteous and respectful to all involved even when disagreeing with or criticizing them. Truth be told, I think he would make an excellent governor. I just don't agree with his politics.
Ross performed much better than I expected her to. She did a decently good job, but she is clearly not a politician. She also could use a wardrobe assistant and a good stylist if she ever wants to come off well on television. Who shows up to a debate against three seasoned politicians in black suits wearing ...whatever it was that she was wearing? And those huge, highly reflective glasses just don't work in studio lighting. Beyond her obvious lack of experience, however, I thought she did a very good job of making her points and ensuring that she got her position out there. I don't think she had the best timing or tact, and it was quite clear that she supports Patrick over herself to be governor, but she comported herself well.
Mihos remains my favorite, and I thought he did an excellent job. Although I think he performed better in the first half than the second. Of the four candidates, he was by far the best spoken. He had his answers down, knew his stuff, and phrased it well. His business experience really came through here as he handled the debate like a sales pitch to the people of Massachusetts. And I think he sold himself pretty well. But it was also quite clear that he really has it in for Healey. He went after her at every opportunity, criticized her on everything, and was very clearly interested in hurting her campaign. To some extent this is a good move for him, as he really needs to take as many Republican voters as possible. He especially needs to take the Republican voters who already aren't happy with Romney and Healey, and I think his performance was calculated to do just that. He spared very little time for Patrick or Ross, which makes sense. If he has any chance of winning he's going to have to do it by winning the Republican votes that currently seem to be going to Patrick. He needs to paint himself as a rational and effective moderate-conservative, and so far he seems to be doing a pretty good job of it.
My overall impression of the whole thing was that the strongest weapons in both Mihos' and Patrick's arsenals are their extensive business experience. They know how to get things done, they understand the relationship between money and results, and they understand how to speak to
constituents. Ross, I don't really know why she's in the race. She clearly is a Patrick supporter, but I guess just wanted to make sure her issues were on the table. Healey is, as so many have already stated, struggling against the Romney legacy. People don't like where things are now, and she's part of that. I'm not even going to try and claim that there was a winner, because I don't think there was. But Patrick really raised himself in my estimation last night, Mihos did an excellent job as well, Ross met and slightly exceeded my expectations, and Healey was somewhat disappointing.