Too mired in present to envision future
ONE THING for sure: the next governor won’t be a poet.
Charlie Gibson’s opening question at last night’s debate — give us the poetry of your vision for Massachusetts — met with a resounding thud from the four candidates. Tim Cahill at least admitted he was all prose; in their language, the three others were just as colorless. Perhaps that defines this race. We’re so deep in the weeds of budget deficits, unemployment, and health care costs that no one, it seems, can look to the horizon and say where they want to go.
The debate — rescheduled from tonight so that none of us would be forced to choose between Lebron James and our civic duty — was a determined and slightly dull affair with a few outbursts of snippiness. In truth, I have watched so many debates already that I felt like I was at the “Rocky Horror Picture Show,’’ ready to shout out the lines along with the rest of the audience.
In substance, the two frontrunners seesawed. Baker was strong on his plans to cut the state deficit, but weak when he tried to dance around Question 3 (the sales tax rollback). When the Big Dig came up, he looked as if he’d rather be walking on hot coals. Yet his answers on turning around gateway cities were persuasive.
With a slight lead in the polls, Deval Patrick’s job was to commit no sins. Baker was more animated than in past debates, which helped counter his image as a technocrat. But Patrick seemed the only candidate easily able to express empathy for citizens pressed hard by the recession. It doesn’t mean he would be a better governor than Baker — indeed, too much empathy can stymie good decision-making — but it does mean that he came out of the debate at least as good as when he went in.
Tom Keane (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes regularly for the Globe Magazine.