The candidates for governor will have one debate this year and it was last night. Who won? Well, any answer to that is subjective. Most news agencies (and friends on Facebook) are reporting that Gov. Jan Brewer showed poorly. She seemed uncomfortable right from the start, and I even discussed with one friend whether she was properly prepared or not.
So, if it is so obvious that she did badly, what does that mean for the race? I believe it means nothing.
In the past few months, Brewer has been elevated to the national level. Her support for SB 1070 has made her a regular subject on most cable news channels and their websites. She has become a national figure on the immigration issue and in direct conversation with President Obama.
So back to last night’s debate. Wait! First let’s talk debate strategies. Campaign 101 says that when you have a strong candidate who is well ahead in the polls (Rasmussen Polling has Brewer up 19%) don’t debate your opponent. You give them attention and credibility that they may struggle to get on their own. Because Brewer is a Clean Elections Candidate (publicly financed), she is required to attend at least one debate.
OK, now let’s go back to last night. She didn’t look good. With 60+ days to go before Election Day and a large lead, I would say this was like taking the medicine quickly and getting it over. Within 30 days this debate will be mostly forgotten as early balloting begins. I believe that Brewer and her staff are probably pretty happy that the debate was early and that it’s done. Now her campaign will become about her dialoguing when she wants and how she wants while the Democratic candidate, Terry Goddard, will continue to chase her around and demand more debates. He will most likely never get them.
If you are an outraged Democrat who finds this to be unfair, remember, this was the same strategy former Gov. Janet Napolitano used against Len Munsil in the last Arizona’s governor’s race (She actually gave him a second debate in Tucson that wasn’t broadcast statewide).
Brewer may have lost the debate last night, but the war is still pretty much in her control.
You can see the debate in its entirety at www.azpbs.org.