With one week left in a gubernatorial race that has been dominated by blistering attacks, the top two contenders had differing replies Tuesday when asked if they would pledge to pull all negative advertisements in the final days of the campaign and run only positive spots.
Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman, appearing on stage along with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Women's Conference in Long Beach, smiled when they were asked by "Today" show host Matt Lauer if they would "make a pledge that you would end the negativity."
The question brought a roar of approval from the thousands of people gathered at the Long Beach Convention Center, with many in the crowd rising to their feet to applaud.
After some discussion, Brown said he would agree to pull all of his negative ads and run only an ad in which he looks at the camera and "just say what I'm for."
But Whitman, while saying she would pull any ads that might be considered personal attacks on Brown, said she would not agree to remove advertisements that focus on Brown's political track record.
"Here's what I will do. I will take down any ads that could even be remotely construed as a personal attack, but I don't think we can take down the ads that talk about where Governor Brown stands on the issues," the former eBay CEO said. "I just think it's not the right thing to do."
The response brought boos from the crowd, and Lauer responded, "They seem to be asking for more."
"I think it's important because I am new to politics," Whitman said. "People need to know where I stand and also, Jerry Brown has been in politics for 40 years and there's a long track record there and I want to make sure people really understand what's going on here. And I'm not doing it in a mean- spirited way. I just think it's important for people to really understand what the track record was in Oakland, what the track record was as governor."
Brown -- who has been easily out-spent by his billionaire opponent in the campaign -- initially drew catcalls from the audience when he said, "First of all, we have to remember, sometimes negativity is in the eye of the beholder."
But the Democratic former governor and current state attorney general drew cheers when he said he would agree to pull his ads -- as long as Whitman agreed to do the same.
"If Meg wants to do that, I'll be glad to do that," he said. "We can have a little discussion today. I'm sure we can work something out."
He added, "Let's be clear about it, if she takes her negative ads as reasonably defined, I'll take mine off, no question. We do it together, no problem. I pledge that right now."
"I've got one nice ad where I look into the camera and I just say what I'm for," Brown said. "You (Whitman) have a very nice ad where you look into the camera -- it's a pretty good ad, by the way. We can put both of them on and let all the other ones go off. I'll agree to that right now."