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Whitman, Brown square off in Tuesday debate

  • Angelico Hall, at Dominican University, in San Rafael, Calif, the sight of Tuesday's gubernatorial debate is seen Monday, Oct. 11, 2010. Democrat Jerry Brown will face off against Republican Meg Whitman in the third debate between the two candidates. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The fight to become California's next governor comes to Sonoma County's doorstep Tuesday as Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown square off in San Rafael for their third and final debate.

But don't expect to show up and get a seat. At this point you'd probably have better luck finding Giants playoff tickets than getting in to watch veteran journalist Tom Brokaw moderate the exchanges between the two candidates.

Debate host Dominican University received more than 4,200 entries for last month's lottery to give away just 780 tickets.

And the interest level has only surged as the candidates' punches have grown more personal with allegations about illegal house cleaners and assistant's slurs adding to the drama surrounding who will lead the state in its financial crisis.

Dominican has issued more then 260 media credentials to everyone from the Washington Post to Britain's Sky News to the Wall Street Journal. The requests ratcheted up as the campaign rhetoric heated up, said Dave Albee, the school's associate director of public relations, celebrating a publicity coup for the small private school.

"I don't think anyone imagined the attention would go from the state to the national and international level," he said.

Locally, those who can't be there can watch on NBC Bay Area or listen on KQED radio. The debate starts at 6:30 p.m.

Despite the media attention, it remains to be seen how much is really at stake in the faceoff. Many campaign watchers believe debates do little to sway people's opinions, said Jason McDaniel, an assistant professor of political science at San Francisco State University.

"By this point in a campaign, most voters already lean towards one candidate or another based on party ID." he said.

Wesley Hussey, a professor of government at Sacramento State University, concurred, saying it would take a major event — like a fundamental factual misunderstanding — to have a large effect on voters.

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