Todd Domke

As dust settles, frontrunner emerges

By Todd Domke
December 2, 2009

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THE DEBATE last night was strange, but decisive.

The frontrunner for the Democratic Senate nomination, Martha Coakley, now looks inevitable.

Coakley stood out in a winning way. Usually only a connoisseur of dullness can appreciate her public speaking. But this time she spoke eloquently about health care and seemed stateswoman-like while her opponents squabbled. She was the only candidate who flashed a winning smile - and had reason to.

Mike Capuano was the big loser. He had momentum, but his nasty side came out frequently. He was testy, snide, and seemed indignant that he had to compete with amateurs.

Steve Pagliuca was another loser. He still has trouble delivering scripted lines. His most memorable line was that he was proud of Burger King. Perhaps BK execs let him wear the cardboard crown at board meetings. But his handlers can’t be proud of his performance. If he finishes a distant third or fourth, it won’t be easy for them to talk him into challenging Deval Patrick in the primary.

Alan Khazei seemed thoughtful and sincere, as usual, but was at his best on a non-federal issue: opposition to casinos.

The debate itself was a loser. The moderator acted like a wacky emcee. WCVB’s Ed Harding seemed to be auditioning for candidate, injecting his opinions and interrupting answers. He seemed surprised that no candidate wanted to invade Pakistan or shared his outrage about a pollen study in Iceland.

Final grades for the debate: Capuano D, Coakley B+, Khazei B-, Pagliuca D+.

Todd Domke is a Republican political analyst, public relations strategist, and author.