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Jerry Brown rebounds in governor's race

by Bob Morris, published

Meg Whitman had been surging the past few weeks and Democratic politicos were getting nervous. Was Jerry Brown going to do anything or just get steamrolled by eMeg?

What a difference a week makes. A poll released July 28 by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that Whitman has stalled and is still a few points behind Brown.  Environmental issues, the poll shows, are becoming a primary concern. The BP Gulf oil well blowout has unquestionably been a factor.

California voters now oppose offshore drilling by 59%, up from 41% last year.  Significantly, voters overwhelmingly support AB32, which mandates emissions be cut to 1990 levels by 2020, and thus oppose Prop 23, which would negate it. 

Whitman seems to be on the wrong side of the issue here as far as the 67% of voters who support AB32 are concerned.  She’s been waffling, saying she favors a one year moratorium on it, a view that will satisfy few. She’s also been trying to have it both ways on the Arizona immigration law, with her California ads saying “NO to the Arizona law” while she herself says the law is just peachy for Arizona but not for California. Rather than carefully triangulating the issues as she no doubt hopes, her blundering approach will probably just antagonize voters on both sides of the fights. She claims to be a non-politician politician and her amateurishness appears to be showing. 

Jerry Brown has been hoarding his cash reserves for a big push in the fall and has, I think, been waiting for Whitman to make mistakes. He pounced on her AB32 stance, saying this is a key difference between himself and Whitman. He strongly opposes Prop 23 and says AB32 will lead to the creation of thousands of new cleantech jobs.

With environmental issues becoming major issues in the gubernatorial race, Brown’s stance will undoubtedly resonate with voters. After all, California has a 13 point advantage for Democrats: 44% are registered Democrats, and 31% are Republican. Plus, the PPIC poll shows that for those whom environmental issues are important, 50% favor Brown and just 16% Whitman. 

Some are saying Whitman’s strategy of self-financing her campaign with a big push during the summer to cut into Brown’s constituency isn’t working. She hasn’t picked up any appreciable amount of new votes. Worse, the PPIC poll shows that 52% of voters say there should be a legal limit on what a candidate can spend on their campaign. So, perhaps there’s backlash brewing against Whitman and her spending $105 million of her own money so far on the campaign. 

Brown is finally starting to talk about the issues, instead of speaking in Zen riddles. He favors pension reform, increased spending on education, and he opposes Prop 23. However, he has still said nothing about the budget crisis, and Whitman is hardly better, talking about growing the economy with more jobs.

Um, yeah, but, what about that $19.1 billion gaping maw called a budget deficit? Neither candidate has offered any concrete plans on what to do. 

You may have noticed that this article about Jerry Brown has mostly been about Meg Whitman. Precisely. Maybe the Brown campaign has adopted a strategy of political jui jitsu. Wait for her to make mistakes then use her momentum against her. It’s not like they have many other alternatives.

But for now, it seems to be working.

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