Sunday, April 23, 2006

Watching the Candidates Debate

I finally got a chance to sit down and watch the Democratic gubernatorial debate that aired this morning on Channel 4. For those night owls that missed it, it will be rebroadcast tonight at midnight. All in all, I think the candidates handled themselves well, and any one of them would be an improvement over the corner office's current occupant by a country mile. I think that despite some of the contentiousness, what you saw during that debate was more agreement than disagreement. All of the candidates want to grow the economy and all think that taxes are high, though each have different plans on how to reduce them: Chris Gabrieli says wait until we've replenished the rainy day fund, Deval Patrick says restore local aid to lower the property tax, and Tom Reilly says cut the income tax ASAP. There's a case to be made for all three, though personally, it's the property tax that I'm the most concerned about.

In any case, I think Chris Gabrieli came off very well during the debate, but he did seem like a third wheel at times as Patrick and Reilly went back and forth. Gabrieli did manage to get off some good lines, and I did notice that the other candidates said "I agree with Chris" at least once each. I did bristle when Tom Reilly went off on a tangent questioning Deval Patrick's association with Ameriquest, but Patrick did a bit of political ju jitsu on the issue by discussing his role in correcting Ameriquest's predatory lending practices.

The debate had some improvements over the usual format. In the interest of time, candidates did not give an opening statement, which I think was a good move. I've never thought that opening or closing statements added much. In addition, I liked the free time for rebuttal after answering where the candidates could actually interact. Too often, the rules of the debate are so restrictive that the candidates might as well just be giving parallel speeches, and there's no opportunity for the participants to talk to each other.

Here's what I didn't like, though. The debate was taped on Friday and not aired until Sunday morning. That's fine, things are pre-taped in television all the time, but what was odd was that the press was invited to the taping, and they published articles before any member of the public had seen the debate. That meant that the Globe, CBS4, etc. could tell us what the debate was about before we were able to find out for ourselves. I would much prefer that people be able to make up their own minds about the debate without having to live in a media blackout before it's shown.