Charlie Baker kicked the Governor's butt in last night's debate, as Tim Cahill seemed irrelevant and Jill Stein made Deval uncomfortable from the left. It was Charlie's best campaign moment in his 13 months of effort, and he's hitting his stride at just the right moment. Some thoughts:
Deval made a mistake insisting on having Tim Cahill involved in the debate. Baker pummeled Deval steadily, and the Governor never got the space he needed to rebut. He would have been much better off going one on one. Deval made a mistake allowing a WRKO style debate to be held on TV - yup, we'll take credit at the Tom & Todd show for showing the local media just how dumb it is to have debates that are so rule-laden that no debate takes place. Check out our June 16th, first of the year, Gubernatorial debate on the audio archives and see the debut of debate style debates. The lack of the traditional protective rule structure gave Charlie more flexibility in attacking Deval constantly. Charlie successfully held off attempts to focus on his past with the Weld/Cellucci administrations by calling them an attempt by the governor to keep the focus off the problems of the moment. Deval looked like a boxer who likes lots of room to throw his punches facing a fighter in Charlie Baker who stayed in close and peppered him with quick blows that kept him on his heels. Deval never got to spread around his magic wizard dust which he uses to anesthetize the citizenry to the cynical nature of his leadership. Not covered last night was education standards in Massachusetts, which Deval is aggressively working to dismantle to keep teachers unions in his camp. This was likely good for Charlie, as Deval probably spent more time preparing to defend this indefensible strategy than any other. All that education magic dust will be carried around till next time.
- Deval got away with taking credit for some things he had nothing to do with, such as ed reform 16 years ago and expanded health insurance coverage. Charlie can't let him get away with that deception again.
- The Baker tactic of treating Patrick and Cahill as a tandem works remarkably well. I'm certain a big chunk of voters assume that Tim is the Lt. Governor.
- Deval's fallback positions, such as arguing that programs can't be cut because they're about community, are the same as shouting I'm Not With the People! His glib, compassionate demeanor was perfect four years ago, but it is wrong for this political moment.
- Jon Keller was terrific, as always.
This election is over. Charlie will win easily. That was true before last night, but now the voters of Massachusetts are on board with that reality. He should offer a job to Tim, and Tim should accept it and get out of the race, so the thing can be put to bed.