Live from the WGBH/Boston Globe Massachusetts Gubernatorial Debate
October 22, 2014
October 22, 2014
It was an honor to take one of the 150 seats in the WGBH News studio for the first televised debate featuring only the two major-party candidates for Massachusetts governor. Jim Braude and Margery Eagan moderated a very conversational format expertly, pushing both Charlie Baker and Martha Coakley to answer when asked a tough question.
Some quick takeaways from the evening:
Debate audiences are fascinating: Who gets into the room? Seated to my left were a group of passionate Charlie Baker supporters. On my right? A Boston University student whose rhetoric professor had given tickets to his class for an assignment. I also spied Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts President and CEO Marty Walz, and former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld.
No social media: Because cell phones and other mobile devices interfere with the audio equipment, WGBH pried cell phones out of the hands of attendees before they were seated. (It made mingling prior to the event an experience worthy of a PBS documentary.) It was refreshing to watch a debate without having my opinions influenced by how the Twitterverse was reacting to the exchanges.
Don’t become a meme: I was seated in the second row, almost directly behind the candidates. While I wasn’t in many of the shots, I still kept my back straight and my face neutral. When debates slow down, social media looks for anything to spice things up. I didn’t want to be the person who nodded off or looked angry.
Perception is everything: The folks at home and in the media room next to the studio had a better view of the debate than the audience. We watched the backs of the candidates and moderators and could only see their faces on distant TV monitors. In my mind, Baker seemed more confident, asserted himself (politely), and did an excellent job of conveying emotion in his answers to counteract the perception of that he’s only a “numbers guy.” But once the studio doors opened and I compared notes with reporters and onlookers outside the room, many of them gave a slight edge to Coakley, who landed some great zingers that deflated Baker’s messaging.
If you’re not invited, come anyway: Independent Party candidate Evan Falchuk was not invited to participate in the televised debate. But when the audience and media left the WGBH studio, they walked directly into a standout with the candidate out front, ready to talk to anyone who would listen. Smart move!
It will be interesting to see if polling conducted after the debate moves the needle at all for either candidate. With less than two weeks until Election Day, a debate performance can make all the difference.
(Photo: Meredith Nierman photo/Courtesy WGBH News)