On Tuesday night, WGBH News hosted the first debate of the Massachusetts Democratic Primary at its Guest Street Studio in Brighton between the incumbent, Sen. Ed Markey, and his challenger, Rep. Joe Kennedy. Adam Reilly, WGBH News' political reporter, and Peter Kadzis, WGBH News senior editor, sat down with Judy Yuill — in for host Arun Rathhours before it happened to discuss the race and the evenings possible ramifications. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Judy Yuill: Adam, I'll start with you. Who's the favorite in this race?

Adam Reilly: I believe Joe Kennedy was the favorite the second he decided to run. It's not usually that way when you have an entrenched incumbent like Ed Markey, who's been in office for quite a long time and who is held in high regard by a number of his constituents because of various policy priorities he's embraced. It's rare to have the challenger as the favorite right from the outset. But Joe Kennedy happens to have the last name, Kennedy, and he is one of those Kennedys. So, I think it is his race to lose.

Yuill: Well, Kennedy has the name and the national profile, but what are Markey's assets?

Reilly: One of Markey's assets, I think, is that older voters or voters who just like the idea of people waiting their turn, may not like the fact that Kennedy is going after Markey — particularly in an election year when Democrats are leery of misallocating any resources they have to try to beat President Trump. I know there are already some Democrats out there who think, "this is wasted energy," as Ed Markey struggles to keep his seat and Joe Kennedy tries to take it away from him. Those are volunteers, boots on the ground that will not be used to help a Democrat regain the White House.

Another asset that he has is he's very highly thought of by people who prioritize action on climate change and the environment. He partnered with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the Green New Deal. He has her endorsement. So, I think support from that community is going to be key for him.

Yuill: Peter, this has been a huge year for national politics with impeachment, the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Has this sucked some of the air out of these campaigns? Are people still paying attention?

Peter Kadzis: I think it has. I think hardcore politicos are paying attention. But there's only so many pages in the newspaper. There's only so many minutes in a news broadcast. And the presidential elections and impeachment have edged a lot of political moves out.

For a race with this high a profile, I'm surprised that more people don't have strong feelings about it or more people aren't aware of it. I think that could change. It'll certainly change, you know, in August or so. But, yeah, it's a tough year and I think because of Kennedy's high name recognition, this puts an onus on Markey just because his name isn't Kennedy.

Listen, I don't dismiss Markey at all, as many people do. This is a very flaky political year, very turbulent. I could imagine there being a backlash against brand names such as Kennedy. By the same token, I could imagine a generational vote where young people say we need our people in the Senate and that would be Kennedy over Markey. It could break so many different ways.

Yuill: Adam, what do you have to add to that?

Reilly: Well, I think that one area in which the onus is on Kennedy — by the way, I don't disagree with what Peter said. I think that Markey is going to have to work hard just because Kennedy comes in with the advantages that we talked about earlier. But Kennedy needs to come up with a clear, crisp argument for why he is a better choice than Ed Markey. And that's something that he has struggled to do in recent months as I've dropped in and out of paying attention to this race.

Essentially, what he tries to say is, "oh, you know, we're in a really serious situation right now in the country politically and it's time for a new generation to take the reins and run with it and try to make things better." I feel like he's shooting for a paraphrase of Peter, you can correct me if I get it wrong here, but what was President Kennedy's famous. ... "The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans." I feel like he's he's trying to echo that without sounding like he's ripping off former President Kennedy and hasn't really done it, to my ear yet, in a way that rings true.

And that, of course, is something he has to do because on policy issues, he's very similar to Ed Markey. He's not a radically different kind of Democrat. And, unlike Ayanna Pressley — who was able when she was running against Mike Capuano kept you wanted to say, "yeah, we're similar on the issues, but representation matters" — in other words, you're going to get something different when you send an African-American woman to Congress as opposed to a guy like Mike Capuano who has been there for a while. It's a lot harder for me for Kennedy to make the representation argument because it's one white guy trying to unseat another white guy. And the challenger just happens to come from a more famous family.

Yuill: People with big placards — backing Markey and Kennedy — gathered in front of WGBH before noon. That's seven hours before the debate begins. So, what does that sort of enthusiasm say about the race?

Kadzis: Well, I was talking to them around noontime. And, you know, it was one of those moments that makes even a cynic like myself feel good about democracy. I talked to one woman who was a Markey supporter and she said that many months ago she went to Washington, D.C. She herself suffers from a chronic illness and she was lobbying senators to appropriate federal money for research on cancer and other chronic illnesses. And she said she had a great meeting with Markey's office. And, to make a very long story very short, Markey ended up introducing a bill that passed that appropriated $1.5 billion for research into chronic illnesses. So, that's a very concrete story and that's why she's out there in the cold.

On the other hand, one of the Kennedy supporters — a young woman just out of college — she said, that as a student, she was an intern [in the U.S. Congress]. She picked Kennedy['s office] because it seemed like a good office to go to. But she was really impressed with the care with which the Kennedy office and staff put towards all constituents, whether they could help them or not. You know, they have two similar but different stories. This is about real life and some people care a lot of a lot.

Yuill: Peter and Adam. Any predictions for tonight?

Reilly: I will make a prediction. And before I do it, I want to note that every single time I make a prediction in one of these debriefs, I get it wrong. So, you can be guaranteed that this is not going to happen. But nonetheless, I'll predict that Sen. Markey — who has an affinity for acronyms — likes to do things like take NRA for the National Rifle Association and say it actually stands for "Not Relevant Anymore." It's one of his tics as a politician and he's pretty good at it. I think he's going to come up with an acronym tonight involving this race that will get people in the audience buzzing and leave us talking afterward.

Kadzis: That's an interesting one. Not so much a prediction, what I'm looking for is, are these two candidates going to come out swinging at each other? Or are they going to use this as an opportunity to sort of introduce themselves to the voters?

Adam Reilly and Peter Kadzis host WGBH News' weekly Scrum podcast.