Massachusetts Republican candidate Charlie Baker may have cinched the 2014 gubernatorial election due in part to the anecdote he delivered during a debate sponsored by WCVB-Channel 5. As he spoke about talking issues with a fisherman, Baker became visibly emotional. Democrat candidate Martha Coakley gamely tried to tap into the moment by providing her own take on how federal regulations are destroying the local fishing industry in Massachusetts.
During the course of Baker’s story, the studio camera went from a CU of Baker to a “two-shot” that presented Coakley left of center on the TV screen & Baker framed on the far right. The cut happens roughly at the 00:36 mark & at that moment Coakley appears distracted – if not bored. Then the camera cuts back to a CU of Baker. At roughly 01:03, Baker places his right hand over his face in an attempt to contain his emotions. After an awkward pause, Baker regains his composure and continues his story. At roughly the 01:15 point, Baker’s emotions compel him to pause again.
Just as he delivers the close of his story, the studio camera cuts back to the two-shot. Coakley can be seen looking distant as Baker is in the middle of his close. The camera cuts back to Baker’s CU at roughly the 01:27 mark. When it does, we see the full emotion in Baker’s eyes & in his voice as he finishes his story. An awkward silence hangs in the air for a few seconds. At roughly 01:34, the camera then cuts to an establishing shot with Baker on the far left, Coakley on the far right, & the three representatives for Channel 5 in the center. Check out Coakley’s demeanor if you can.
The minute Baker provides a coda to his anecdote, the camera cuts back at around 01:38 to a CU of him with the emotion weighing heavily on his face. He regains his composure and in a gentlemanly way he proffers that stories like the one he delivered on the fisherman is the reason why he & Coakley have done public service. The camera cuts back to the two-shot of Coakley & Baker at roughly the 01:46 mark. Coakley seizes the baton Baker hands to her (when he says both of them seek to help people through public service) and reiterates the main themes raised by Baker.
Regrettably, Coakley opines “they are not unique” when commenting on the fisherman & his family. Obviously she means the hardship suffered by the fisherman of Baker’s story is a story shared by hundreds if not thousands of people like him. However her inelegant way of expressing that sentiment comes across as cold. Prior to making that statement, the camera at roughly 02:07 cuts to a CU of Baker with a pensive look of sadness in his eyes just as we hear Coakley’s off-camera voice utter “they are not unique”. It creates a subtle contrast between Coakley & Baker.
A split screen occurs at roughly the 02:15 mark so that we see Coakley in a CU on the left & Baker in a CU on the right. It’s at this moment that Coakley hurts herself. While Baker damns Massachusetts for not sticking up for its fishing industry, Coakley rarely looks at Baker. Instead, she glances at the reporters in front of her or looks off into the distance. She reacts negatively when Baker declares federal regulations have distorted the state’s “rule-making process”. Baker picks up on her ruffled feathers & quickly reassures her that she has “fought the legal fight – which I admire.” He then closes with a promise to fight for the state’s fishing industry when he becomes governor.
I won’t be surprised if this clip from the debate goes viral nor will I be surprised if the reaction said clip produces among Massachusetts voters results in Baker becoming the Bay State’s new governor. In less than three minutes, the clip shows Baker to be a man of compassion for those less fortunate than himself as well as a policy wonk determined to change the kind of politics that forces people to become less fortunate than himself. This is the kind of moment that pulls in rank & file Republicans, independent voters, & Old Left Democrats. It’s the kind of moment that wins elections.