ASKING FOR VOTES WITHOUT HAVING VOTED…. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman launched a Republican gubernatorial campaign last week, and immediately ran into a problem. Chris Cillizza reports:

…Whitman’s spotty record as a voter — she was never registered before 2002, according to reporting by the Sacramento Bee — has become a major issue as she seeks the Republican nomination for governor of California in 2010.

“This news is disqualifying to a candidate for governor, her campaign knows it, and they are on the defensive,” concluded Jarrod Agen, communications director for California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner who is challenging Whitman for the GOP nod. Poizner’s campaign has also released a 30-second video slamming Whitman for her missed votes; “Whitman didn’t vote for one president, congressman, senator or governor,” says the ad’s narrator. “She didn’t skip some votes, as she claimed, she skipped every one — for 28 years.”

Whitman, who told the Bee that she had been registered before 2002 and challenged reporters to “go find it,” exacerbating what was already a very tenuous situation for her candidacy. “It is a big deal and her handling of it is making it worse,” said one California Republican who is not affiliated with a candidate.

It’s an embarrassing aspect of a candidate’s background if he/she didn’t take public affairs and civic duties seriously enough to vote. But is it “disqualifying”? Voters, obviously, will make that judgment, but it seems a little over the top.

Plenty of statewide candidates — Jon Corzine, John Edwards, Bill Frist — have overcome sparse voting records to win big elections. I wouldn’t be surprised if voters weren’t especially judgmental on the issue, since most of the country doesn’t vote in every election, either.

On the other hand, Whitman’s situation seems slightly worse than most. She didn’t even register until 2002 — when she was 46 years old — and when asked recently about this, she insisted she was registered.

Is this the kind of thing that voters are likely to hold against her? I’m not sure, so I thought I’d open it up for a little discussion.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.