As Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman debate for the first time tonight at 6 on ABC 7 in Los Angeles, advisers are no doubt deep in fear, hoping their candidates avoid:
1)Saying something stupid that can be used in an advertisement, ala, Gerald Ford's gaffe in a 1976 debate that Poland wasn't under the thumb of the Soviet Union;
2)Saying something that will cement an ongoing narrative, like when Michael Dukakis gave a technocratic non-response when asked in a 1988 debate what should happen to a criminal who raped and murdered his wife.
For both Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman, based on their histories, the risk of saying something ill-advised is quite high.
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Whitman, it's fair to say, didn't face too many hostile debate-type situations while running Ebay, and when she did, at least once she got so frustrated she gave an underling a (literal) shove.
An appearance back in August on KFI's John and Ken was universally panned, as the tough guy shock-jocks got her to come out against any path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, which seemed like a flip-flop. She was a bit all over the map on AB32, California's global warming legislation, saying she didn't support the voter initiative Prop. 23, which would halt the legislation, but would suspend the legislation for a year if she gets elected. She also attacked her primary opponent Steve Poizner, even though this was months after she defeated him in the primary.
For his part, Brown recently ad-libbed an attack on former President Clinton with a weird, subtle reference to Monica Lewinsky, to groans from Democrats.
So tonight, partisans will look on, more with nerves, than excitement.