By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – I had the privilege Thursday night of moderating back to back appearances by the Boston mayoral candidates at the Boston Children’s Museum in front of an audience of experts on early childhood education. And I came away from it with renewed appreciation for what a thankless task it is to be a political leader.

Don’t drive off the road, I promise I’m not going soft on them.

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Listen to Jon’s commentary:

But sitting next to John Connolly and Marty Walsh for 45 minutes each while they fielded tough questions that defy easy answers reminded me of how tough the job they’re competing for really is.

First, there’s the challenge of getting the job.

If you’ve ever endured a string of interviews for a job, you know how grueling they can be. For these two, the Children’s Museum forum was the fourth job interview of the day, and each went on to other events when it ended at nine.

The questioning from the crowd was skeptical and detailed. And at times the candidates struggled to balance their desire to offer hope with a reluctance to over-promise, their urge to win over voters with their insistence on their own principles.

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For one of these guys, this will be the easy part.

Come next January, either Connolly or Walsh will be confronting the grim realities of federal spending cuts and a tight state budget, rising costs and demand for services at a time of severe public resistance to new taxes. They will be dealing with an array of demanding constituencies, all eager for the new mayor to immediately start performing magic even as he keeps up the nearly-impossible-to-match physical pace of Tom Menino and Ray Flynn.

Thursday night, they both won my sympathy, and respect.

Friday, though, it’s back to no more Mr. Nice Guy.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.


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Jon Keller