Boston mayoral candidates Annissa Essaibi George and Michelle Wu are set to face off in their first televised debate Wednesday night, a high-profile opportunity for both women to capture casual voters who are just tuning into the race.
For Essaibi George, it's a chance to dim the rosy media glow Wu has enjoyed since winning more than 30% of the vote in September and nabbing endorsements from several major political figures.
For Wu, it's a test to defend and also expand the coalition that put her ahead of the other candidates in the first leg of the race.
Hours before the debate, a new poll of 500 likely voters released by WBUR and MassINC Polling showed Wu had the support of 57 percent of those polled, against Essaibi George's 25 percent. Undecided voters were 19 percent. The poll had a 4.9 percent margin of error.
John Keller, political analyst for WBZ, will serve as the event moderator. In his view, Essaibi George "definitely has more at stake" given that she lags slightly behind Wu in cash on hand and finished 11 percentage points behind her in the preliminary election.
Those conditions, according to Keller, dictate that Essaibi George's task is twofold.
"By any reasonable measure, it's clear that Michelle has an edge. [Essaibi George] has got to do something to bring her down a peg," Keller said, adding that Essaibi George also has to make a good impression with casual voters.
Erin O'Brien, associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Boston, agreed the stakes seem higher for Essaibi George and said their first head-to-head discussion offers a chance to challenge Wu.
"Michelle Wu has been leading the whole time, which is incredibly impressive, but it's also the case that, but for maybe [former candidate] John Barros in one of the [preliminary] debates, she hasn't really been pushed on some of her policy," O'Brien said.
"If you're Annissa Essaibi George, you want to say 'Michelle Wu, it's great to be woke, but it's important to actually be able to pass policy that makes change,'" O'Brien continued.
For Wu, O'Brien said, the way to guard against Essaibi George's policy critiques is to stick by her platform by saying, "'I made it through a tightly contested [preliminary election] on these policies, I've been leading from the beginning based on these policies and I'm not going to change these policies now that we're in the final stretch.'"
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Source : https://www.wgbh.org/news/politics/2021/10/12/what-to-look-for-in-wednesdays-boston-mayoral-debate510