Consider that to be the bottom line of today's unusual event in Long beach, which featured both major candidates for governor and the man whose job they have one more week for which to fight.
The event ended with a simplistic but compelling moment: will each candidate stop running negative TV ads?
Soon after Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman walked out onto the stage to join Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and moderator Matt Lauer, it seemed as though the setting -- the 2010 Women's Conference -- and the overall mood of the event -- life empowering and emotional -- were going to force the candidates to spend the entire time praising their families and friends.
"I am my mother's daughter," said Whitman in answering a question about her biggest life influences. To which Brown invoked both his late mother and his wife when it was his turn.
But Lauer had a zinger of a question waiting for the two at the end, calling the campaign between the two candidates "a bloodbath" for its bitter accusations and sharp attacks.
"In one week left," said Lauer, "would either of you, or both of you, make a pledge that you'd be willing to end the negativity?"
The crowd roared. Again, keep in mind this was a day full of inspirational speeches that played well with the call for a more civil tone in this final week of the race.
Brown went first, and instantly seemed to channel his parsed answer in the October 12 debate about the now infamous audiotape of his campaign team. "Sometimes negativity is in the eye of the beholder," said Brown.
The crowd booed. He seemed to then sense the need to bail on the nuance, and switched to simply saying yes. The it was Whitman's turn at the nuance.
She attempted to draw a distinction between character attacks (a no-no) and issue critiques (a-ok). That worked... at first. But the longer the discussion went, the more the pressure seemed to mount on Whitman.
"I don't want [the topic] to end with it being a question of semantics," countered Lauer.
At that point, you could almost see the wheels working in Brown's mind (Wait a minute! I'm ahead! I'm going to look like the good guy here!). "I pledge that right now!" said Brown. The crowd cheered.
"I will take down any ads that could even remotely be construed as a personal attack," said Whitman. "But I don't think we can take down the ads that talk about where Governor Brown stands on the issues. I just think it's not the right thing to do."
The crowd booed. A lot.
Schwarzenegger now seemed to be having a ball, leaning over to Whitman and saying: "Mike Murphy is in the back. He's shvitzing!" (Murphy, a top aide to Whitman, served in the same capacity for Schwarzenegger in 2003 and 2005.)
Whitman's campaign has just launched two new TV ads criticizing Brown. While the GOP nominee also has a 60 second positive ad on the air, the anti-Brown ads seem to be one last attempt to smack down the Democrat before next Tuesday.
Brown then accepted the challenge a second time, milking the applause of the mostly female audience for all it was worth. Whitman again tried to unstick herself from the political flypaper Lauer had laid down on the stage, but she was stuck.
"I'm not doing it in a mean-spirited way," she said. "I just think it's important for people to really understand what the track was [of Brown] in Oakland, what the track record was as governor."
More boos. Which then gave Brown a chance to sell his latest ad as, in his words, "positive."
Whitman tried to respond, but the reality is that the die was cast at that point. The Republican wasn't going to get the crowd back on her side, no matter what she said.And if Whitman's afternoon hadn't turned sour enough, it was Schwarzenegger's turn to take a little jab.
"I happen to disagree with Meg a little bit," said Schwarzenegger. "California is going to be a golden state once again? California is a golden state!"
The crowd loved it. After all, as the Guv said towards the end, "It's Maria and my conference."
The governor, who made it clear he would not endorse before next Tuesday, praised both candidates in closing remarks... but also seemed to lay it on especially thick for Brown ("He's a great public servant").
Did we learn anything substantively new about Meg Whitman or Jerry Brown in this event? No. But in a week where every step is going to be watch... scrutinized... and analyzed, Whitman's 'yes-but-no' answer (to what was admittedly an impossible thing to agree to) is going to get a lot of play.