Sorry to disappear for the week. I was battling a small — but uncomfortable — medical problem. Maybe more on that in a future post. Or at least, more on what it’s like to deal with a medical issue these days.
On Thursday, I was onstage with Paz, doing pre- and post-game analysis at the Murphy-Bysiewicz debate. It’s often unclear who “won” a debate. It was not unclear on Thursday. Murphy won, in small ways and in big. When I looked back at my notes, it was difficult to find many substantive things he had said but, while he was talking, it seemed like he was saying substantive things — which, in modern electoral politics, is often what we have to settle for.
(I did circle:”We’re already in a trade war with China. We’re just not fighting it.” Good one.)
He’s confident, articulate and likable. That probably adds up to wins in August and November. Sitting there on Thursday, I thought: “This is over.” I got back to my desk at work, and the Oakes ad (below) was waiting for me, and I thought: “This is really over. He has even mastered the NBC Thursday night sitcom trope.”
But with 15 minutes left in the debate, Bysiewicz abruptly, as we say about boxers, got her legs under her and put together a few combinations. Especially impressive was her recitation of those instances in her public service career when she really has stood up to the more powerful. And, in what became one of the headlines out of the debate, she uncorked a last-minute haymaker on her opponent. It was, not, unfortunately for her, the opponent sitting on stage with her, but it was something.
You could see, in that little stretch, how somebody could really make something out of this primary. That somebody is probably not Susan Bysiewicz. Part of her problem is that she’s running as an outsider by necessity, not choice. You could say the same about her quasi-Warren anti-Wall Street stance. She comes by it recently and not all that profoundly. I think we all know that if Wall Street had wanted to make a big investment in her candidacy 18 months ago, we would have never met the current Bride of Michael Moore.
To be competitive, she’s going to have to be a lot more Lee Strasberg and invest her portrayal with real emotions drawn from her affective memory. This can be done. She should have spent early 2011 at the Actors Studio, but maybe it’s still not too late.
One mistake she made on Thursday was repeatedly allowing Murphy to play the “Susan has plans; I’ve been doing things” card, until that little spurt of consciousness she achieved around the 14th round. She should have immediately stopped this and said: “Stop bragging about being in Congress, Chris. Congress has done nothing. It has fixed nothing. Its response to the financial crisis has been lackluster, and you personally have failed to distinguish yourself in any significant way.”
If anybody liked her enough to help her, she might even be able to scrape up some ammunition. My guess is that his repeated claim that he “helped write” the health care legislation is dubious-bordering-on-spurious, but to know more about that, she’d have to loosen the tongue of somebody like Larson or Courtney. They won’t do that. Not for her.
I’m not going to say any more. I say the above because I think competitive primaries are (mostly) good. And she needs help even to be digestible, forget palatable. Murphy is almost certainly going to be the nominee. His Thursday performance made me think he can also beat La McMahon. He’s a much more gifted politician than Blumenthal. I mean David Ortiz is a much more gifted first baseman than Dick Stuart. But whatever.
Let the bro’in’ out begin.