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Media Coaching: Meg Whitman's Misstep

By Suzanne Spurgeon  September 27, 2009

California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has been tripped up by a question she should have known was coming.  Her team of political and media advisors had to know it was coming.  So why didn't they have a better answer when reporters asked, "why" she did not register to vote until 2002?  Whitman has admitted it was an inexcusable mistake not to vote over the years.  Perhaps she thought that would be the end of it.  Admit your error and move forward.  Trouble is it leaves reporters and would-be voters asking for more.  "Why" is always part of the story.  She obviously has a reason.  Perhaps she was apathetic or too busy or was unhappy with the candidates.  My advice as a media coach is to share the reason or reasons and quickly before the story takes on more importance.  Candidates can and have been brought down by a bad response to a single question.  Remember how Michael Dukakis reponded to Bernie Shaw's question on capital punishment during a 1988 Presidential debate?  The CNN anchorman made it personal, asking if Dukakis would still oppose capital punishment if Dukakis' wife Kitty was raped and murdered.  Dukakis gave a robot-like answer and well, the rest is history. 

Whitman has a strong team around her, including former Governor Pete Wilson.  But, this weekend, Wilson let his displeasure show all over this face. 

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