Keohane: Kerry v. O’Reilly—Down to the Wire!

1221065521OK, maybe not down to the wire. In fact, it’s probably all over. The Globe unsurprisingly endorsed John Kerry today, calling challenger Ed O’Reilly “energetic but utterly unprepared for the job.” The Herald hasn’t weighed in yet, though I’m really curious to see which way they go. They do love them some underdog, and also loathe Kerry, so I wouldn’t put it past them.

The one debate voters were treated to (at 8:30 a.m. on a Sunday, hooray democracy) didn’t change the dynamic at all. EdO was all over ol’ Treebeard for everything. He may as well have been running tight little circles around him and nipping at his calves.

EdO’s high points were quoting at length a passage from former Kerry strategist Bob Shrum’s book saying that Kerry supported the Iraq invasion for political reasons, and mocking the Junior Senator for chairing the second least consequential committee in the Senate. His low point was name-checking a fictitious biotech organization—”New England Council on Biotech Industries”—and saying he would consult it in his attempt to protect a line item for tech funding. Also, he looked about nine feet shorter than Kerry out there. Was that one of the conditions of the debate along with:

1. It must run at an hour when no one will see it.

2. No milk crate for O’Reilly!

Still, Kerry brushed O’Reilly aside for much of the debate and walked away unscathed. His major misstep was complaining that EdO wasn’t following the rules of the debate (he was), which made him look petulant. And I would deduct one more point for the hysterical email the Kerry camp sent out after the debate.

Subject line: “KERRY CAMP RESPONDS TO O’REILLY’S RIGHT WING SMEARS.” Huh? O’Reilly’s running from the left. But I guess all criticism of Kerry must be a sign of secret allegiance to the Republican party. Why else would you criticize Kerry?

O’Reilly called for another debate, but obviously that’s not going to happen. It’s always best that the voters just take an incumbent’s word that they deserve another term.

As I wrote in this month’s column, Mass. political wonks are all wondering what will happen in the event of an Obama victory. Kerry has said roughly 6,000 times that he’s not running for appointive office, which is probably good, because it’s impossible to run for appointive office. Anyway, there remains a crack of daylight amid all those denials: he hasn’t said outright that he wouldn’t take a job if offered.

The primary is next week, and the question isn’t whether EdO will win, but whether he will draw the 23 percent he took during the convention. That will be a sign as to the extent of whether he’s been a tool of the delegates to punish Kerry without throwing him out altogether.

Certainly, though, whatever you think of O’Reilly, the guy deserves a lot of credit for going out there and doing something so ballsy and quixotic. Every safe, entitled incumbent should have someone like EdO assigned to them every time they face reelection. And they should be made to debate him at least twice, and at an hour when the majority of voters aren’t asleep.


How to Make a Senator Sweat

Jon Keller’s WBZ Blog