Will Brown and Whitman Stop the Negative Ads? Issue Dominates Women's Conference Discussion

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Matt Lauer, left, speaks with California gubernatorial candidate Republican Meg Whitman, second left, as California gubernatorial candidate Democrat Jerry Brown and Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger look on at the Women's Conference this afternoon (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Okay, that was fun. Gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman sat down for a chat this afternoon at The Women's Conference in Long Beach. "The Today Show" host Matt Lauer led the discussion along with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in tow. It was generally civil as they all spoke about their families, why Schwarzenegger won't endorse a candidate (Lauer offered to arm wrestle for the answer), confidants and special interests (Whitman said she would stand up to the California Teacher's Association). But then Lauer dropped the bomb.

"This campaign has been a bloodbath in many ways," Lauer said about the "awful" amount of negativity seen in ads. With one week to the election "would either of you, or both of you, make a pledge to end the negativity?"

And the crowd screamed with a standing ovation.

Brown said negativity was sometimes in the eye of the beholder -- crowd jeers -- and Lauer countered saying if it smells of negativity, it probably is. So Brown then agreed to do if if Whitman did.

For Whitman's part, she said there was a difference between personal attacks and attacks on issues.

Lauer then chimed in: "I don't want to end with this being unsettled or a question of semantics," he said drawing more cheers. "There has been enough talk about slurs and housekeepers," we're all flawed people, he added.

"If we do it together, no problem, I pledge that right now," said Brown.

Meg stayed her ground, saying she would take down personal attacks, but not negative ones about Brown's stances on issues, which drew boos from the audience.

Then Brown offered to only keep up his ad where he looks into the camera and explains his issues if Whitman did the same with her ad of a similar nature. Whitman, however, hesitated and didn't answer the question. Brown jumped in saying it was hard to make a sudden decision like this in front of all these people and Whitman left the topic by saying she was new to politics and needed voters to understand that Brown has been it for a long time.

Although many polls put Brown ahead of Whitman, the outcome of the race is anyone's guess at this point.