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.
A stumbling Governor Brewer appeared to have lost her train of thought as Wednesday nightâ€™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 Arizonaâ€™s strict and popular immigration law.
â€śIt would be unusual even for that strong of an incident to make a 20-point difference,â€ť says William Dixon, a political scientist at the University of Arizona, alluding to recent polls that show Brewer leading over Democratic challenger Terry Goddard.
â€śTypically, debates donâ€™t have a great impact,â€ť adds Jim Haynes, president of the Behavior Research Center in Phoenix. â€śIn this case, because of this kind of extraordinary attention that itâ€™s continued to draw, it may.â€ť
Brewer was obliged to participate in the debate because she is using public dollars to fund her campaign, and publicly funded candidates must participate in at least one debate. But she has said she wonâ€™t be debating again before the November election.
If her campaign changes that position, it may be an indicator that the governor is losing ground and needs to do something to change momentum, Mr. Haynes says.
But in Arizona, which leans conservative, Brewer could be safe simply by virtue of being the Republican candidate. â€śThe question is not just is somebody impressed or unimpressed with her performance, but are they also willing to vote for the other guy?â€ť says Haynes.
Indeed, the reaction among Arizonans appeared to follow party lines.
Republican voter Sarah Abraham is standing by the governor. She chalks up Brewer's troubles to stress. â€śStress is a funny thing,â€ť she says. â€śThe critics are not in her shoes. She totally has my support.â€ť
But Democratic voter Candice Garcia, on the other hand, was embarrassed. â€śEven though sheâ€™s the governor by default, she still represents Arizona," she says. "Her performance was a joke."
Mr. Dixon, the political scientist, says Brewer is certainly not the first politician who has made mistakes during campaign debates.
â€śGerald Ford at one point said Poland was a free country before the fall of communism,â€ť he says. â€śIn this case, though itâ€™s not saying something wrong so much as just getting completely flustered.â€¦ Itâ€™s hard to explain.â€ť