Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Meg Whitman vs. Jerry Brown: Can Tom Brokaw Steer Them toward Substance?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Meg Whitman vs. Jerry Brown: Can Tom Brokaw Steer Them toward Substance?

Article excerpt

Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown, candidates for California governor, will debate for the final time Tuesday, with Tom Brokaw moderating. The candidates have spent a lot of time dwelling on scandal recently.

In their third and final debate Tuesday, California gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown (D) and Meg Whitman (R) will have their last chance to clear up the haze of scandal that hangs over each of their heads. Ms. Whitman is still being dogged for firing an undocumented maid and Mr. Brown's campaign is in hot water for a sexist slur.

Just as pressing, though, is the need for both to put the scandals aside and focus on what they will do for the state, some analysts say.

"People have already made up their minds about character and will be looking for answers to 'What will you do for me?' " says Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for Study of Politics and Media at California State University, Sacramento. "Each needs to spell out what they will do about jobs, economic recovery, education and the other top issues, voters care about."

What voters want to know is which candidate has the plan that will work to turn California around, says Gary Aminoff, Vice Chairman of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County. "Those questions [the maid and the slur] are irrelevant," he says.

Many have hopes that moderator Tom Brokaw, with his decades of experience at NBC, will be able to keep the candidates focused on substance.

"He is a master and a pro's pro, so if there is any indication that the debate will veer off into titillation, he will steer it back," says Hal Dash, CEO of Cerrell and Associates, a Democratic strategy consulting firm.

Mr. Brokaw commands respect among voters, says Ms. O'Connor, and the candidates will forget that at their peril. "He is the closest thing we have to Walter Cronkite," she says. …

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