Skubick: Preview of Friday gubernatorial debate

LANSING, Mich (WLNS) - The two major party candidates for governor square off in what could be a contentious TV debate that could impact the outcome of the race.  

6 News Capitol Correspondent Tim Skubick, who has been covering debates for governor since 1970,  offers some perspective on what Bill Schuette and Gretchen Whitmer have to do tomorrow night in Grand Rapids.

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer comes into the first TV debate with an 8-point lead.

Her assignment: Don't let her opponent cut into that lead and don't make any mistakes that could help him do that.

Conversely, Schuette needs to put her on the defensive to cut into the lead but he has to be careful, if he is too aggressive it could cost him with some female voters.

Former Republican candidate for governor Dick Posthumous learned that in 2002.

He was running against the first female candidate for governor and at one point, instead of referring to her as Attorney General Granholm, he slipped and called her  "Jennifer. Jennifer. Jennifer."

Some female voters thought it was disrespectful and lashed back at Mr. Posthumous, who did not know he made a mistake.

Mr. Schuette was asked if his advisors have warned him not to be too aggressive or disrespectful to his female opponent.

He answers, "Listen. I'm going to say it like it is."

Reporter: "You're not going to call her Gretchen, Gretchen Gretchen?"

Schuette: "Oh, I can't remember that. (laughter)."

Reporter: "Oh, yes, you do."

Schuette: "We're just going to have a great debate talking about the issues and I'm going to have fun."

In a statement, Ms. Whitmer's campaign said "The attorney general is a skilled debater who knows how to tell voters what they want to hear...that's why Sen. Whitmer has been taking the process seriously and preparing for the debate."

The moderator's assignment: ask new questions so that the debate does not result into a regurgitation of all their TV commercials,  like fix the roads or cut taxes.  

And it would be good if there were some follow-up questions, just in case the candidates don't answer the question the first time around.

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