Tom Reilly was good last night. Very good. High-fives all around the room good.
For those who have reservations about Patrick, Tom Reilly presented a compelling alternative. Heck, even Gabrieli gave Tom Reilly props for fighting for the MCAS, charter schools, and knowing more about the public safety concerns surrounding the purge of criminal records.
Reilly was effectively assertive, passionate, confident, and just plain real. As Jon Keller noted, “That was Tom Reilly at his best. Hell never be as smooth a talker as Deval Patrick or Chris Gabrieli.” He doesn’t need to be. Not with that kind of conviction in his voice.
His answer on student tracking was, hands-down, the single most genuine moment of this or any previous debate. Who saw that question coming? Admit it: you sat there too and thought, He’s right – some really smart, promising, but troubled kid could get pidgeonholed by the system if we aren’t careful. And it meant so much more coming from Tom Reilly because he is an example of exactly that kind of kid – a kid who, but for the grace of God and the generosity of an admissions officer at American International College, may have fallen along the wayside. You could feel his belief that every kid deserves a chance to be every bit as good as he or she can be.
On a more nuts-and-bolts level, Reilly’s populist pitch for the tax rollback issue was effective, particularly as his opponents debated whether a formula (Gabrieli) was better than following the Legislature’s lead (sorry, but that is how Patrick’s statements came across). Reilly was talking about $200 for families who are up against it, while Patrick was talking about cutting property taxes without much in the way of specifics (again, sorry, but true). Meanwhile, Gabrieli was punching his calculator to figure out whether 40% of Deval’s Berkshire “glass mansion” (beyond inflation, that is) was worth more than his Louisburg Square brownstone. I realize that this generally pro-Deval audience won’t agree, but score a point for Reilly on this one.
Finally, there was Gabrieli’s question about standing up to the Democratic Party, which was clearly designed to trap Patrick (gee, ya think the other shoe might drop today?), but played perfectly for Reilly. Tom Reilly practically pulled out a notepad and a pencil, happily ticking off a laundry list: the rollback, charter schools, MCAS, publicly calling for Billy Bulger’s ouster from UMass, to which he added for good measure, “I was booed at the Democratic convention because it was the right thing to do,” i.e. What have you guys ever done that would have caused that kind of reaction from Democratic insiders?
Tom Reilly had a big night. Don’t believe me? Well, consider a couple of nuggets from some non-Reilly folks commenting in David’s Debate live-blog and open thread. In a thread nearly devoid of anything more than my guy won/your guy lost, I was impressed to find the following:
[H]e [Reilly] gave a very good answer in specifying streamlining business’ interaction with the state government. - Lynne’s husband
Reilly was at his best tonight. . .I think he gave the public his best and he had a few really good moments. His answer about tracking students was absolutely brilliant, authentic and effective. - Benny
Brilliant, authentic, and effective. . .Five more days of this can make Tuesday another big night for Reilly.