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Don't Look Now, But... Can Jerry Brown Actually Pull Off a Prop 30 Win?

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Sometimes I like being wrong. This would definitely be one of those times.

I've already predicted that Proposition 30 -- the California initiative to temporarily raise taxes on the rich, along with a temporary quarter-cent sales tax hike, to stave off big education cuts and stabilize the state budget -- will lose. I did that here on The Huffington Post on October 26, and on my New West Notes blog on October 22.

And at that point, 15 days before the election, it looked like Prop 30, dropping below 50 percent in the polls under a multi-million dollar barrage of advertising from the right -- billionaire heir Charlie Munger Jr., and a few other mega-rich folks running their bucks through the "Small Business" Action Committee re-branding operation run by a career-long anti-tax/small government lobbyist -- and the left (heiress and Charlie Jr. sister Molly Munger pushing her DOA Prop 38 income-tax-hike-for-all school funding measure), suffering from a certain lack of clarity in message, was heading to defeat.

Governor Jerry Brown spoke on Thursday at the venerable Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.

The theory, which may have been shared by Brown, is that if a campaign urging a "no" vote on a complicated financial issue has many millions of dollars to send, that initiative will lose. Which is why Brown worked so assiduously to neutralize opposition from business, even gaining key business support in the process.

But since the middle third of October, things have been stabilizing for Prop 30, the compelling case for which is laid out in this new Los Angeles Times editorial. Brown is bringing new clarity out on the stump, first in a series of speeches on college campuses, now in high-profile talks at prestige venues in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley. And of course President Barack Obama wins handily here.

I think some bets have been missed in this campaign, but there may also be some things that are not yet public.


* The new Field Poll finds Prop 30 still up, 48 percent to 38 percent, but not declining further, with the undecided vote folks that Prop 30 can draw from.

* The "No on 30" forces may have overplayed their hand in playing the hide-the-funder game. After disguising money from a few very big givers by running it through the "small business" outfit, they then accepted the biggest anonymous contribution in California history, $11 million from a shadowy Arizona super PAC whose law firm is headed by the Republican National Committee's chief counsel, again running it through the "small business" committee of one. All the while claiming, in mordantly amusing fashion, that they don't know who the givers are. As if any political professional would take $11 million without knowing its source.

* And the new online voter registration law signed by Brown has led to a flood of new voters, many of them young voters -- which explains what Brown was doing on his college tour, a flummoxing experience for Brown's opponent of 40 years, Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters -- and not many of them Republicans. Republican registration in California, the GOP stronghold that gave us Presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, has now dropped below 30 percent.

Brown, who on Thursday before the venerable Commonwealth Club in San Francisco offered a spirited argument that California is moving forward in the larger view of things while he works to get its long dysfunctional state government sorted, did a third straight day of big-picture talk Friday at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group's annual Public Policy Luncheon at the Santa Clara County Convention Center.

Speaking at Chico State University on Monday, Brown laid out a stark choice for college students.

Brown had already tightened his case for the Prop 30 revenue initiative, and the big picture agenda around it, Wednesday in a speech at Town Hall Los Angeles.

On Friday afternoon, during a moderated conversation with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, an education reformer, and Virgin America CEO David Cush about California's future, Brown joked with the high-income Silicon Valley crowd about the increased tax, saying that studies show that divorce is what causes people to relocate, not higher marginal rates on the rich.

It was a good venue for him. For Brown's governorships bridge a large swathe of the history of innovation in California, which is much of the history of innovation in America. From the birth of Apple in the fabled garage, that garage in the figurative and nearly literal shadow of the then legendary Hewlett-Packard, to the development of biotech and cyberspace. Through the peaks, valleys, and emerging new peaks of aerospace. And the green growth of the new energy and transport paradigms we need for a sustainable future in a time of growing climate threats.

The Town Hall LA, Commonwealth Club, and Silicon Valley Leadership Group appearance have afforded Brown the opportunity to focus on the steps he's taken to clean up the debris of the past (including fiscal realignment, budget, governmental, and pension reforms), the steps he is taking with big budget cuts and Prop 30 to stabilize state government and preserve what is necessary for a strong civil society in the present, and the steps he is taking to create a bright future of technological innovation and sustainable growth.

That is the mission Brown undertook when he decided to spend his '70s eschewing the clean heights of the Sierras -- Brown and first lady/special adviser Anne Gust Brown are avid hikers -- for the not-so-clean corridors of politics.

There is not a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. But there may just be a renewed Golden State.

Brown spoke in Los Angeles at the Tuesday unveiling of the Space Shuttle Endeavour permanent exhibit at the California Science Center, tying in his theme of continuing to invest in innovation even while getting present crises under control.

Brown of course continues to slash at the mystery money modus operandi of his opponents.

On Tuesday at Cal State LA, Brown denounced the "No on 30" crew as dominated by "shadowy figures" of great wealth including "bandits" in the form of the odd Arizona super PAC which has made the largest anonymous contribution in the history of California politics.

The hidden money crowd behind "No on 30" have now succeeded in manipulating the system to keep the true source of the biggest anonymous political contribution in California's history secret through the election. Although a state court has sided with the Fair Political Practices Commission in ordering that the true source of the $11 million be revealed, the super PAC's high-powered Virginia law firm, which is in the same building as former Bush/Cheney consigliere Karl Rove's office, is appealing the ruling.

We may see how much Californians love a mystery.

You can check things during the day on my site, New West Notes ...

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