Why Meg Still Won't Take on Debates - NBC Bay Area
Prop Zero
The Starting Point for Commentary and Coverage of California Politics

Why Meg Still Won't Take on Debates



    Jerry Brown issued a 10-debate challenge, but Meg Whitman has only agreed to one. So far, that debate-avoidance technique  has worked for her.

    Take the primary. She held two low-profile debates with Steve Poizner and she won the election by a wide margin. She didn't need to use debates to spread her message because she could do it through advertising -- a billionaire, Whitman could use her huge cash reserves to inundate voters with message with ads. Whitman, the former eBay CEO, shattered the campaign spending record, forking out  $71 million of her own money in the primary.

    But will the same strategy win her the governor's race in November? Her primary victory shows that money talks. But Jerry Brown has assets that Poizner lacked -- name recognition and, in a largely blue state, a D next to his name.
    Brown's campaign war chest is nowhere near Whitman's, so he's eager for the verbal challenge of a debate. That's what he knows best. He's a seasoned politician who's experienced at talking his way around and through any argument.

    But do debates make a difference?

    "Voters are tired," says Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, senior fellow for the School of Policy, Planning and Development at USC. "We've had so many elections, and many have featured debates."

    Not many debates at the state level have received blockbuster ratings, she adds. For the most part, people who watch debates have already picked a candidate -- they just want to root for their candidate, she said.

    Then there's this opinion on Calbuzz that if she does take on a series of debates, "she's got no answer for Brown's Zen Jesuit epistemological style," which went on display during a nationally televised interview during which he expounded on his deeper meaning of politics.
    But Whitman's gone through six months of campaigning and has gotten better at sharpening her message and deflecting attacks. So far, she's managed her campaign largely on her own terms.

    Whitman started spending money the day after the primary, and the money will continue to flow in the coming months.

    That may be an investment in her future beyond the governor's office. Mitt Romney was Whitman's mentor. Is a Romney/Whitman national ticket in hte future? Now that will be a matter of debate.