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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Advantage: Patrick

After weeks of the rope-a-dope, Deval Patrick finally started to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, countering Kerry Healey's allegations with a cool exterior and cold hard numbers. For the many voters getting their first real look at Patrick, it was a strong performance.

For a campaign that had been fought so far on Healey's turf of rape and taxes, the focus on those issues -- and a strong revulsion against those scare tactics -- did not do Healey any good. She was forced to play defense from the get-go.

If she needed a knockout -- or at least a decision -- to gain ground in this race, she failed. Despite her almost comical effort to label him -- in one mouthful of words -- as a tax-raising liberal, Patrick came off cool. And in a medium like television, cool wins every time.

Patrick was assisted by the fact the Christy Mihos and Grace Ross still aimed most of their barbs at Healey -- whether the issue was the disgraceful new Healey ad that tries to scare women into voting for her, the bald-faced political ploy to promise and end to Mass Pike tolls to the Romney-Healey administration's failure to invest in local aid, education or the businesses needed to stop the bleeding of the population.

Healey also failed to show any independence -- let alone courage -- by dodging the question about the impact of (former) Gov. Mitt Romney's use of Massachusetts as a punch line in his presidential quest. Her effort to say she agreed with Patrick on choice and stem cell research was a feeble attempt to show some distance -- but significantly not independence -- from a man who has serious image problems as a result of the lies he offered four years ago,

Patrick offered an array of facts -- from cops removed from the beat, jobs lost or residents leaving Massachusetts -- to answer the critics who said he was all style and no substance. I will leave the fact checking to those paid to cover the event, I doubt there will be significant discrepancies. And even then, more people will have watched this debate than will read the truth squad stories.

After a 6 p.m. debate and one broadcast only on NECN because it originated in Springfield, most voters knew only what they had seen in the commercials. The risk for Patrick was that he would reinforce that hazy, uninviting image. The Deval Patrick people saw tonight is the one his supporters hoped would show up: an iron fist wrapped in a velvet glove. He never lost his cool as he sliced through Healey.

First impressions still count the most. Even though Kerry Healey has been around for four years, she is virtually unknown, at best seen as a silent ornament on the Romney chain. On that basis only, Patrick wins.


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