ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - Meg Whitman, who never quite managed to connect with the California electorate in her 2010 gubernatorial run, shared this morning what she suggested is a truism of a good campaign: Hold town hall meetings, but starting two weeks before the election, stop taking questions.
Whitman, the chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard, was introducing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to California's delegation to the Republican National Convention. Whitman considers the conservative star a "close friend," and she recalled for the audience "one quick, personal story.
"Towards the end of my campaign - it was the last two weeks of the campaign, and Chris Christie volunteered to come out and campaign with me," Whitman said. "We were in Los Angeles at a roundtable, a big town hall meeting, several thousand people there. And when you're at that point in the campaign, you actually do not take questions from the audience because typically there are 'plants' from the opposition in the audience, and it can get very nasty. So you actually, two weeks before the election, you stop taking questions."
At the end of the event, Whitman said, a man in the audience started screaming, criticizing her for not taking questions.
The exchange that followed made headlines in New Jersey and California, when Christie walked over to the man, pointed his finger at him and scolded, "It's people who raise their voices and yell and scream like you that are dividing this country. We're here to bring this country together."
Whitman's description of the encounter cheered the crowd:
The event - if it is the one to which Whitman was referring - was in September 2010, more than a month before the election she lost to Democrat Jerry Brown.
Whitman, who arrived here Saturday night and is staying with the California delegation at the TradeWinds Island Grand, has raised money for Mitt Romney and advised him on economic policy. She has said previously that she would consider an appointment in a Romney administration if he is elected.
In its account of an interview with Romney published this morning, Politico said the candidate, discussing his potential Cabinet, cited Whitman as the kind of person from the private sector he would like to have around.