There wasn’t a decisive winner in Tuesday night’s gubernatorial debate, but I gave Republican Charles D. Baker Jr. a slight edge, for this reason. Using the background of the Patrick administration’s well-documented problems, Baker underscored the need for better management on Beacon Hill and for a chief executive who is more on top of things than Governor Patrick has been, at least during his second term.
Further, Baker used the example of the expensive-to-remedy problems with the state’s health insurance website to illustrate his point about the way one-party rule on Beacon Hill can mute criticism, highlighting the Health Connector board’s too quiescent role.
Although Democrat Martha Coakley proved herself a debater who gave as good as she got, she showed little appetite for addressing the current administration’s management challenges in an analytical way. Instead, she started her answer to moderator Jon Keller’s debate-opening question by noting that “there are a lot of things that have gone right in the last four and eight years of this administration” and by then asserting that she would do better in the problem areas.
Coakley sounded a little like she’s running for Deval Patrick’s third term. Now, to be fair, it’s always difficult to criticize an incumbent of one’s own party, particularly when that person is an important electoral ally. Still, the debate dynamic helped Baker underline his theme of a moderate policy-wonkish manager intent on making government work better.
Of the three independents, the stand-out was Evan Falchuk, who hopes to garner the 3 percent of the vote needed to win his United Independent Party official status as a party for the next election cycle. Unlike the other two independent candidates, Falchuk found ways to inject himself into the debate in an interesting and attention-getting fashion.
Businessman Jeff McCormick’s repeated trope about getting people to work together sounded generic. A minor candidate running on conservative and religious themes, Scott Lively seemed more than a little bizarre.