Senate Debate, First Impressions

First off, and most importantly, I give best tie to Capuano. (Unfair to Coakley? Perhaps. She can participate; if she chooses a blouse and pearl necklace that's her decision.) Other thoughts:

--Clear winner in the debate: Scott Brown. The four Dems are tripping over each other to get as far left as possible, giving the presumptive Republican nominee (sorry, Jack E.) plenty of fodder. If I'm not mistaken, all four said they would favor raising taxes in some fashion if another stimulus package is needed. None made even the vaguest suggestion about reducing the deficit by curtailing spending. All signed on to some version of "pathway to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants. All oppose additional troops for Afghanistan, if not supporting leaving altogether. None want to talk hawkishly about Iran. All want the most robustly liberal healthcare reform possible. All would vote against a Supreme Court nominee who isn't firmly for upholding Roe v Wade. And so on... Hey, if you're a likely Democratic primary voter, this is music to your ears, but if you're a conservative it's likely to make you contribute to Brown, and if you're in the middle it's likely that at least one or two of the above opinions turn you off.

--I thought Martha Coakley did quite well. She came across well-versed on the issues for the most part, and avoided giving the other candidates anything meaty to pounce on. That said, I don't know that she closed the sale for those folks who came in leaning toward her, which in my opinion was her big goal. She relies heavily on referencing her work as AG/DA as evidence that she's got experience on issues, but I don't think that does anything for her. Instead, I think she should have tried more to fill out her personal values and motivations -- all that corny crap about what your parents did for a living and what kind of job you did to work your way through school and so on really are important in making people comfortable about pulling the lever for you.

--Personally, I like Capuano's aggressive persona; I suspect it turns some people off, but he is what he is. I think Capuano was very good, but nevertheless comes out with even more of a problem than he had going in. I don't think he's any closer to making this a two-person race, which he desperately needs it to be. And he's really boxed in, I believe. His two main differentiators are supposed to be that he's the true liberal, and that he has the right experience. On the first point, he hasn't found a sliver to put between him and the others -- so he's heavily reliant on the experience argument. Unfortunately for him, I suspect that there are only so many people -- even in a Dem special-elex primary -- who first and foremost want a classic Washington insider.

--Khazei was OK, and probably won himself a whole bunch of what we call "goo-goo" (good government) progressives, who want someone to kill all the lobbyists and ban all earmarks. There's a market for that in a Dem primary, although I don't know how big of one.

--Pagliuca accomplished some important things in terms of personal introduction to the voters (he's liberal on all the key issues; he wasn't born with a silver spoon... in short, he's not Mitt Romney), but was surprisingly weak at times, and missed big opportunities to score on his pet issues. Personally, I think Pags should forget about being likable, and should talk in indecipherably complex terms about the issues, particularly the economy, financial regulation, debt, and health care. Let us know that you actually understand these issues as deeply as I suspect you do -- and that the other candidates are ignoramuses giving pat political pablum. Just my suggestion.

--I thought Peter Meade did a damn good job for the most part, and gave us a solid, substantive discussion. Plus, that beard is making him look really distinguished these days.

--My favorite part was at the beginning when Meade kept trying to get them to admit that they were planning their campaigns before Kennedy was dead.

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