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Even as their counterparts in the presidential race drift closer together on the ideological spectrum, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and opponent William F. Weld '66 sought to present voters with a clear choice in their debate Tuesday night.
As a result, and although television ratings may not indicate it, the third of seven debates in the state's neck-and-neck senatorial race was a definite boon for the voters.
Unlike past debates, no clear victor emerged Tuesday night at Emerson College's Majestic Theater. Instead, the candidates presented two vastly different styles of leadership.
Kerry successfully painted himself as a stalwart defender of social programs in areas such as education, welfare and the environment.
He aggressively attempted to contrast himself with Weld's more laissez-faire approach.
"The governor is nicer to convicts than he is to kids," Kerry said.
The senator also spread fears of Republican dominance.
"It is the fact that there would be no stopping them that scares the hell out of all of us," Kerry said.
Often urging the more jovial governor to get serious, the senator's calm and collected debate style was often impressive.
But unlike past debates, Kerry's oratory style did not completely overwhelm Weld's high-pitched, rapid-fire attack.
Defining himself as a fiscal conservative, Weld castigated Kerry's entrenched liberal policies.
"You've been there 12 years and you've voted three times to kill the balanced budget," the governor said to Kerry.
In contrast, Weld frequently cited his impressive record of fiscal management as Governor.
"The truth is that we have abolished wasteful programs," Weld said.
But despite the governor's attacks, Kerry appears cognizant of the need for fiscal reform, especially in the Social Security trust fund.
"In to order to prepare for the future, you've got to start now," the senator said.
While both candidates fought vigorously to portray the other in a negative light, the discussion rarely strayed to peripheral issues.
Not once did the governor attack Kerry's personal life, including his record of meager charitable giving. Meanwhile, the senator likened Weld to Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) only once.
And even the governor agreed that the large number of debates was helping to focus the candidates on issues.
"I think there is virtue in repetition," Weld told a group of reporters after the debate.
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