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The Boston Globe

Opinion

JOANNA WEISS

John Connolly’s night during debate

John Connolly and Martin Walsh appeared in their second debate of the general election.

Meredith Nierman/WGBH

John Connolly and Martin Walsh appeared in their second debate of the general election.

The “Oh, snap” award for use of logic in a mayoral debate goes to John Connolly, who scored big — in his lawyerly way — in the early minutes last night. The subject was negative mailers accusing Connolly of being a “son of privilege,” which Walsh’s union allies have been sending out.

Walsh told the unions to stop. They ignored him and sent out more.

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“If they are not listening now,” Connolly said, “why would they listen to you as mayor?”

It was a lawyerly exchange, but a winning one, because it undercut Walsh’s main argument about his relationship with unions, which boils down to: They like me, they trust me, so don’t worry, I can work out a good deal.

It also drew a sharp contrast between Walsh and Connolly — not in vision so much as in temperament. The likable guy versus the guy who’s not afraid to be disliked.

“Disliked,” of course, is a relative term, and a gentle one. The worst personal attack we’ve seen against Connolly is the fact that he isn’t working class and that he’s a lawyer. This isn’t exactly the stuff of smoking guns.

Still, there’s value for Walsh in being who he is: a regular, decent guy with a great personal story, high on endorsements, and low on snappy comebacks. His reputation has served him well. Plenty of people across the city adore him.

Connolly isn’t quite as lovable, and that came through last night; sometimes he risked coming across as condescending. “Marty, I’m glad you think you’re going to be able to have this special dialogue with them,” he said, in another exchange about negotiating with the teachers’ union.

You can’t quite picture Walsh deploying sarcasm that way. It’s not in his nature or his job description. One could argue that legislators need to be nice.

Do mayors? Sometimes, yes. But sometimes, no.

Joanna Weiss can be reached at weiss@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaWeiss.

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