The last scheduled gubernatorial debate goes off tonight with Tom Brokaw as moderator and one wonders if there will be a surprise launched during the debate to topsy-turvy the race.

Meg Whitman needs to make voters believe she can solve the problems of California. That is all they care about. In the end, the vast majority of voters are not so interested in the battle over Whitman’s maid and Brown’s team’s language. Voters want to believe their vote will make a difference in their lives.

Brown has a close lead by all accounts so he doesn’t want to blow that. He will attempt to hold his tongue. If a controversial thought pops into his head he will swat it away. But can he control the forty years of being who he is in public life … an off-the-cuff commentator.

Don’t expect Brown to apologize over the "whore" comment. He figures his campaign has already done that. And, if Whitman’s maid comes up she will likely swim away from that as quickly as possible and revert to talking points.

Will anything be glaringly different in this debate that has not made news in previous encounters?

Back in March, I wondered on this site if Brown would declare, if elected, he would serve one-term as governor dedicating himself to make the hard choices to right the California ship. If that were his plan, the debate tonight would be the place to announce it.

I revisit this possibility only because I have heard some buzz on this point. Political insiders need to discuss something and the scandals we are following are so last week.

Declaring for one term would indicate to voters that the intent of his governorship was to tackle and fix the state’s big problems … politics and special interests be damned. As I noted in the March piece, Brown could argue since he served as governor before he needs no learning curve to be a reformer and would even correct the mistakes made during his first turn in the office.

But such a strategic move would also assume Brown would not run again for office. Or would it? When questioned during the first debate about running for the presidency, Brown candidly admitted that it would be something he was interested in, but he was too old.

However, he’s not too old for the U.S. Senate. There are plenty of "seniors" serving in that body. One is the current U.S. Senator from California, Dianne Feinstein. Her term ends in early 2013, the year that she turns 80. She may not want to give it another go. Brown has run unsuccessfully for the Senate before and may want to give it another try.

And, after two years of trying to fix California he may just want to escape to Washington, D.C.

In the end, I think the one-term pledge talk is just pre-debate chatter. Brown has never cut off his options in the past and I doubt he does it now. But, he has surprised us before.