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Jan Brewer debate gaffe: How badly will it hurt her chances?

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer stumbled badly at the beginning of a gubernatorial debate Wednesday. But Brewer is a Republican in a conservative state, so the damage may be limited.

From left, Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Barry Hess, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, moderator Ted Simons, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry Goddard, and Green Party candidate Larry Gist go over rules prior to a televised Arizona gubernatorial debate Wednesday in Phoenix.

Matt York/AP

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Gov. Jan Brewer’s much-criticized gaffe during Arizona’s first and perhaps only gubernatorial debate may have been embarrassing but it may not necessarily affect her lead over her main opponent.

A stumbling Governor Brewer appeared to have lost her train of thought as Wednesday night’s debate got underway and she attempted to spell out her accomplishments as governor, a job she inherited in January 2009 when she was secretary of state. But Brewer went into the debate as a strong favorite, largely due to her support for Arizona’s strict and popular immigration law.

“It would be unusual even for that strong of an incident to make a 20-point difference,” says William Dixon, a political scientist at the University of Arizona, alluding to recent polls that show Brewer leading over Democratic challenger Terry Goddard.

“Typically, debates don’t have a great impact,” adds Jim Haynes, president of the Behavior Research Center in Phoenix. “In this case, because of this kind of extraordinary attention that it’s continued to draw, it may.”


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