In 1984, citizens of Oceania use doublethink to erase events from history. That effort probably isn’t even required for the recent gubernatorial debate. If a debate occurs on MPT amid a cacophony of Trump tweets and receives only brief press coverage, did it occur?
The debate struck me as a draw at the time, and Jealous needed more than a draw even if the audience exceeded political junkies. After marinating longer on the outcome, however, I’ve come to think that Hogan did more than just get through the 55 minutes unscathed but ultimately won.
Both candidates were ridiculously over the top in discussing the State’s economy. According to Hogan, Maryland was experiencing an economic apocalypse until he came along and now it’s Morning in Maryland. In contrast, Jealous presented Maryland as impoverished and facing rack and ruin thanks to Hogan. Neither remotely resembles the state I know. Fact checking by the reporters would have been most welcome.
Hogan and Jealous both came across as smart and knowledgeable. However, Hogan had a penchant for rudely interrupting Jealous in a manner echoing Donald Trump’s debating style. Jealous was more patient but frequently went into high dudgeon and berated the governor instead of addressing the voters.
A key reason Jealous lost is that he failed to turn the debate to questions on which Hogan is on the wrong side of public opinion. The $15 minimum wage enjoys broad public support and it’s a cornerstone of Jealous’s positioning as a tribune for the forgotten. Never came up in the lengthy debates about the economy and living standards.
Another problem Jealous faced is that the tactics used to effect in the primary—getting outraged and outbidding his opponents—fell utterly flat. When Hogan brought up Jealous’s recent residency, Jealous went into high dudgeon about how laws banning interracial marriage prevented his parents from living in Maryland.
Hogan utterly destroyed Jealous in his reply, After first eloquently acknowledging the struggle faced by Jealous’s parents, Hogan then pointed out that facts nonetheless are facts. Jealous lived in California and then DC until recently and never voted in a gubernatorial primary until he voted for himself. Hogan didn’t even have to bring up his own interracial marriage.
Jealous repeatedly tried the tactic of saying that he would have acted faster and done more on any given issue as he lambasted Hogan’s response as inadequate. Jealous, for example, repeatedly derided Hogan for taking so long to declare an opioid emergency. Yet Hogan’s response that he had charged the Lieutenant Governor with coming up with a good approach that had now been adopted and made Maryland a role model sounded perfectly reasonable. Jealous’s combination of outrage and outbidding fell flat.
Jealous faced the same problem on issue after issue, as Hogan could point to sensible bills passed by the General Assembly already accomplishing these goals. Community college? Already done and trying to outbid and do more sounds expensive and requiring more taxation. Teacher pay? Hogan loves to point out we’re spending more than ever on education (notwithstanding the cuts he made) and Jealous’s proposed 29% increase in teacher pay sure leaves voters wondering who is going to pay for it when their own salaries are not rising anywhere near that fast. Wanting to release more prisoners seems oblivious to the General Assembly’s recent passage of law to accomplish that goal and feeds into Hogan’s (specious) claim that Jealous wants to unleash violent criminals on the street.
Unfortunately, Jealous also fell victim to the Democratic obsession over plans, at one point pointing out vehemently that he has a plan and Hogan didn’t. Except that voters can judge Hogan by his record, and voters care more about hearing about the general direction and clear ideas. In any case, the plans on Jealous’s website are often less specific than advertised.
The coup de grace occurred when Jealous trotted out yet again that the Baltimore Sun named him Marylander of the Year. Though there is no love lost between Hogan and the Sun, he positively enjoyed pointing out to Jealous that this was something they had in common, as he too was a past Marylander of the Year.
In short, Jealous failed to shift the debate to advantageous ground. His outbidding strategy just fed Hogan’s claim that Jealous is too extreme on policy and will raise your taxes while allowing Hogan to sound like a sensible centrist.