Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Debate: Jerry Brown, Meg Whitman Show Style, but Light on Solutions

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Debate: Jerry Brown, Meg Whitman Show Style, but Light on Solutions

Article excerpt

California gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown (D) and Meg Whitman (R) both claimed victory after Tuesday night's debate.

No big mistakes. Competent performances, with flashes of humor by one and a demonstrated mastery of issues by the other. Slight on substantive solutions.

Those are some of the early assessments of the first televised debate Tuesday night between California gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown (D) and Meg Whitman (R).

"Both sides should be very pleased with the debate," says Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies (CGS). "The public should be pleased that there are two capable, smart, articulate candidates running for a thankless job."

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Both sides claimed victory after the one-hour debate.

Topics ran the gamut from California's massive budget deficit to the death penalty to immigration, education, pensions, and infrastructure. Ms. Whitman, former CEO of eBay waging her first political campaign, showed depth of detail on policy issues and government know-how, while Mr. Brown, who served as governor once already and is now the state attorney general, overcame his penchant to appear arrogant and to wander, several political analysts said. Who won the debate depends on which voters watched, they add.

"Each candidate came away with potential assets and liabilities," says Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College. "Jerry Brown showed that he could be spontaneous and funny. But he kept reminding people of his age and long years in office, which could be a problem in a year when people are looking for something new. Viewers may have thought, 'Wow, he's got a good sense of humor.' They could also have thought, 'Wow, he's that old?' " (Brown is 72.)

Pitney says Whitman showed that she knows the issues and can stay on message. She also put Brown on the defensive at certain points.

"The flip side is that she sounded scripted," says Mr. Pitney. "Viewers could not have come away with a sense of her heart and soul."

The other overarching comment is that the two were able to distinguish, for the first time in the public eye, how they differ in both style and substance from the other.

"Both were trying to use the same facts to their own advantage and their opponent's disadvantage," says Jessica Levinson, political reform director at CGS. "Jerry Brown painted himself as the experienced one, with knowledge of how to run things from the inside. Meg showed herself well to be the outsider who is going to come in and change the way the state is run."

Each accused the other of being beholden to others - Brown to unions and Whitman to millionaires and billionaires.

Whitman said she has a plan to create 2 million private-sector jobs by 2015: by promoting targeted tax cuts for business start-ups and manufacturing, streamlining regulations, and creating an economic-development team that would bring jobs to the state. …

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