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Arizona governor debate: Was Jan Brewer really that bad?

The Jan Brewer gaffe in the Arizona governor debate Wednesday was one for the history books. But there have been plenty of cringe-worthy moments in debates – and they don't always matter.

By Staff writer / September 3, 2010

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, R, greets Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry Goddard prior to a televised Arizona governor debate Wednesday in Phoenix.

Matt York/AP

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Jan Brewer’s debate performance on Wednesday was not good. She’s said so herself.

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The incumbent Republican Arizona governor, matched against Democratic opponent Terry Goddard, babbled a bit with her opening statement (“I have done so much and I cannot believe we have changed everything!"), but the awfulness really rolls at about 38 seconds in, when she runs out of things to say, looks down, clasps her hands, and pauses for five seconds or so. She clasps her hands, and gives a sort of combination sigh and giggle, and then says “We have, uh ... did what was right for Arizona.” (See video below.)

Yes, it was bad. Was it the worst debate performance ever? That’s what Democratic strategist James Carville said on CNN this morning.

“I’ve seen a lot of meltdowns in debate. That’s about as bad as I’ve seen,” said Mr. Carville.

Well, that’s a matter of, um, debate.

The debate bloopers hall of fame

National politics has seen some pretty memorable stumbles – mistakes of style and substance that rank up there with Governor Brewer's.

In 1976 Gerald Ford famously said, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe” in a debate with Jimmy Carter. (There was, back then. Trust us.)

In the 1988 vice presidential debate, Dan Quayle likened his political experience to that of John F. Kennedy. It was this misstep that opened the door to Lloyd Bentsen’s famous riposte, “Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.

In terms of cringe-worthiness, who can forget Adm. James Stockdale? He was Ross Perot’s running mate, and in the 1992 he opened by saying “Who am I? Why am I here?”

Voters asked the same thing.

And remember Al Gore’s endless sighing in his 2000 debate with George Bush? That’s one reason he’s an environmental activist today.

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