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Lower Income Voters Could Save Gov. Gandalf’s Ass

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

The latest Field Poll confirms what two others have already made clear: that Gov. Gandalf’s Prop. 30 has been knocked down below 50% but is still hanging by a thread, with enough voters still in the balance to eke out a narrow majority.

First the numbers: Field has Prop. 30 ahead 48-38%, compared to PPIC which had it at 48-44% and USC/LA Times at 46-42%. In other words, no public poll found the measure with a majority, but all of them found enough undecideds to pull the measure ahead.

But that could only happen if Prop. 30’s undecideds don’t default to the “No” side, as they usually do in tax elections. And as long as dilettante heiress Molly Munger, her right-wing brother Charles Jr. and the underhanded Joel “Phony Small Business” Fox are attacking Prop. 30, pulling undecided voters to the “Yes” side is that much harder.

Which is why Calbuzz urged Gov. Brown to unleash a “tax-the-rich” endgame and why our friend George Skelton of the LA Times argued that Brown should say: “I told you there’d be no tax increase without a vote of the people. So here’s your choice: Higher taxes on the most wealthy or even more severe cuts that would critically wound public education. Please. We need to put this behind us once and for all.”

Here’s more reasoning: Brown’s measure is doing worst among those with whom it should be – and could be – doing best: lower income voters, most of whom are Democrats and independents, especially in Southern California.

Brown’s tax measure, unlike Munger’s Prop. 38, only raises income taxes on the wealthiest Californians (along with a tiny ¼-cent temporary sales tax hike). But what the Field Poll showed was that among those earning less than $60,000 a year, Prop. 30 is ahead just 45-40%, while among those earning more than $60,000 it leads 54-34%.

In other words, Brown needs to reassure those lower income voters that his measure will not tax them, will tax the rich, will help balance the sate budget and begin to pull California out of debt. “Prop. 30 will not raise your taxes,” Brown should be telling lower income Democrats in Los Angeles. “It will ask rich people to pay a little more to keep schools from being hit with devastating cuts.”

According to some of the best minds in California polling, it’s entirely possible that lower income voters are beginning to figure this out – in part because the permanent anti-tax vote in California, which was once about 45%, is now about 40%, owning to changing demographics.

We’re not sure why Anne Brown and Ace Smith, who have taken control of Brown’s campaign brain trust, have not kept Jerry on a disciplined, populist message. Or whether that’s even possible, given Brown’s outsized assessment of his own political acumen.

But luckily for the governor, voters still like him pretty much, they respect him as an old hand and they might even give him the benefit of the doubt on the measure he’s asking for – if  they’re convinced, in these precious last days, that his ballot prop won’t hurt lower income Californians, that instead it will tax the rich and that as the adult in Sacramento, Gandalf’s got a plan to make sure the money will be well spent.

Good luck with that.