Archive for the ‘California Politics’ Category

Op Ed: How Big Plastic is Threatening California

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

plasticbagsBy Steve Maviglio
Special to Calbuzz

Tell me if you have you seen this movie before: a corporate special interest, frustrated with the Legislature, dreams up a ballot measure designed to protect its profits. An army of high-priced consultants tells the naive corporate backers they can win — notwithstanding public polls showing just the opposite.

The corporation, often from another state, shells out a few million bucks hiring signature gatherers and qualifies for the ballot. They plow ahead. Then, battered by editorial boards, and then by voters, they go down in flames $30 million or so poorer and with a sullied corporate reputation.

In 2008, that’s just what happened to Texas oil companies Valero and Tesoro when they attempted to gut AB 32, the state’s popular greenhouse gas law, with Proposition 23. Ditto with PG&E’s Prop 16 to pre-empt local power producers, two attempts by Mercury Insurance to reform rates (Prop 17 and Prop 33), and T. Boone Picken’s Texas sized energy flop, Prop 10 , in 2008. And on and on.

You’d think they’d learn. But no.

Wasting no time Within days of its signature by Gov. Jerry Brown the state’s pioneering single-use plastic bag ban drew the ire of South Carolina-based plastic bag company HilexPoly (now Novolex) that’s owned by a Chicago-based equity firm, Wind Point Partners. Aided by bag makers from far flung places like China and Texas, Hilex Poly (under the guise of the ill-named American Progressive Bag Alliance), has dumped nearly $1.8 million into an effort to force a referendum is on the plastic bag ban.

signaturesSignature gatherers are on the streets, fetching $1.50 per signature, to try to overturn the law by putting it on the green-friendly November 2016 ballot. Their deadline for gathering the 504,760 signatures is December 29th.

The consultant egging them on is Tony Russo, Lest you forget, Russo’s last appearance in California was secretly trying to funnel $15 million in Koch Brothers money into an anti-Prop 30 effort, only to be busted by the FPPC, leaving his clients to pay a $1 million settlement.

If Russo succeeds into convincing Hilex Poly to turn in their signatures, California’s bag ban will be on hold from its scheduled effective date of July 1, 2015 until the November 2016 election.

Local bans, however, will continue to move forward (some 129 already are on the books in the state). Sacramento, San Diego, and dozens of other cities are itching to enact local bans if the state ban is frozen — a nightmare for retailers having to adapt to various versions of bag bans.

Polls are unambiguous Meanwhile, two polls show solid backing of the ban. The first, by USC/Dornsife reported a 2-1 margin of support (including 49% saying they “strongly” back it). The ban’s only weakness came from a small number of Nanny State-hating Republicans.

GOP pollster David Kanevsky of American Viewpoint, the Republican half of the USC polling team, said “If this becomes an ideological thing, that’s not enough to persuade voters in a Democratic-leaning state where voters aren’t necessarily opposed to more government if they agree with …what it’s trying to do.”

plastic-bags_fenceAdded USC’s pundit-in-chief Dan Schnur, “It’s an uphill fight for the ban’s opponents.”

Democratic pollster Drew Lieberman of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research came to the same conclusion. “At this point, it doesn’t look like there’s much to say to change people’s minds. I think this is something that people like, they adjust to pretty quickly, and would have a tough time going back.”

Pollster Dave Metz of Oakland’s FM3 Research has piled on with a new poll he did for the referendum’s opponents. He found that 60% of Californians would support the law if it were on the ballot today, “a solid majority that both grows and becomes more committed after voters hear an exchange of pro and con arguments.”

Moreover, both the Metz and USC polls found that support was more intense in communities with bag bans already in place. Which means that the plasticteers move to freeze a statewide ban for nearly two years may backfire: As more communities enact bans, their attempt to overturn it becomes increasingly more difficult.

Waste, fraud and abuse Meanwhile, taking a cue from the Berkeley vs. Big Soda campaign, bag ban supporters already are circling their wagons. The state’s leading grocers and major environmental groups (including Californians Against Waste, NRDC, Environment California, and the Sierra Club) have formed a bipartisan campaign team and have rounded up more than 100 local officials opposing the referendum. Their “California vs. Big Plastic” campaign is expected to be well funded; this won’t be a David vs. Goliath battle by any means.

stevemaviglioThe state’s major news outlets already are jumping into the fray, skewering HilexPoly and the plastic companies aiding its effort. The Sacramento Bee compared HilexPoly’s referendum attempt to a chicken that has had its head cut off but keeps running around, The Los Angeles Times noted “Listening to the plastic-bag industry oppose bans on their product is eerily similar to what carmakers said decades ago in opposition to seat belts and air bags.” Even national Fox News seemed a little baffled about the effort, noting the plastic bag litter is indeed a big pollution problem.

 Steven Maviglio, former press secretary for Gov. Gray Davis, is co-campaign manager of California vs. Big Plastic

Election Post-Mortem: We’ve Seen This Movie Before

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

chickenlittle-e1322754718668-230x300In the wake of Tuesday’s election, wherein the Republican Party took control of the U.S. Senate, captured governorships in key battleground states, increased their majority in the House and generally stole the Democrats’ lunch, Calbuzz has a word of advice for partisan and media hysterics alike: Take a deep breath – this is what happens every six years into a president’s term.

As Charlie Cook wrote presciently back in January, in five out of six second-term mid-term elections since World War II, the incumbent president’s party has lost an average of 29 seats in the House and six in the Senate. The only post-war exception was in 1998, when backlash against the GOP impeachment of President Bill Clinton led to a five-seat gain for Democrats in the House and no change in the Senate.

Breathe. It’s been happening since 1874, when Ulysses S. Grant lost 93 seats in the House and one in the Senate. Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman all suffered from what analyst Kevin Phillips labeled the “six-year itch.”

reaganthumbdownWhen we ponder their legacies, we don’t think of the 48 seats in the House and 13 in the Senate that Dwight Eisenhower lost in 1958, the five House seats and eight Senate seats that (the now sainted) Ronald Reagan lost in 1986 or even the 30 seats in the House and six in the Senate that George W. Bush lost in 2006.

NBC’s Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann argued this wasn’t a typical six-year itch. Rather:

…what we saw was collapse of the Democratic coalition that helped elect President Obama in 2008 and 2012. If Democrats were going to hold off a Republican tsunami, they needed their base voters to come out to the polls and pull the lever for the president’s party. That didn’t happen where Democrats needed it to.

Especially with young voters. Nationally, Democratic base groups — young voters, single women, African-Americans and Latinos — posted numbers that looked more like the Democrats’ 2010 midterm “shellacking” than Obama’s 2012 re-election victory. Most strikingly, voters 18-29 nationwide were only 13% of the electorate in 2014 (compared with 22% for GOP-leaning seniors.) In the 2010 midterms, young voters made up 12% of the voting public. In contrast, during Obama’s re-election victory in 2012, 19% of the electorate was under 30.

Yet Todd and others belittled Obama when he made the point at his press conference Wednesday that the anemic composition of the electorate helped explain what had happened.

sulky-McConnellAhistorical hysterical wild cats: There’s no denying that when the president’s approval rating is in the low 40s  — as it’s been almost all along; there has been no “plummet” –  when voters are fed up with a government that seems perpetually gridlocked and when you’ve got a chief executive who acts too cool for school and is a communications bungler, as well, his party has a problem.

Stupidly, Democrats lost further ground by choosing to run away from the president who, for all his failings, could have helped them turn out younger voters, blacks, Latinos and women.

But now to suggest that the historical (and even ahistorical) thumping the Democrats took on Tuesday gives the Republicans a mandate begs the question: To do what?

Moreover, even if the GOP comes forth with a program it wants to accomplish beyond approving the Keystone pipeline, cutting corporate tax rates and unraveling the Affordable Health Care Act, it’s hard to see how Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader to Be Mitch McConnell, will be able to herd the wild cats in their caucuses.

“The culture of the Senate, the requirement of unanimous consent to begin action, the existence of the filibuster, and the different world views of many senators compared with their House counterparts makes coordination between the bodies so, so difficult. Remember that Speaker Newt Gingrich was far more unhappy with Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole than he was with President Clinton under similar circumstances in 1995-96,” wrote Norm Ornstein in the Atlantic.

“For McConnell,” said Mark Pomerieau in Epoch Times, “the cards might already be stacked against him as the Washington Post reported this weekend that the influential Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) stated he would not pledge support to Mr. McConnell.  Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele stated in an interview appearance on cable television Tuesday that Senator Cruz is closer to members of the House, which may cause problems for McConnell because as Majority Leader in one house of a bicameral legislature, McConnell will have to build relationships with key members of the GOP House.

“In fact, it was Senator Cruz who orchestrated the government shutdown during the fall of 2013 gaining the support of members of both the House and Senate despite calls from Republican leadership in both houses not to steer the ship off the cliff.  Cruz wields a lot of influence as he demonstrated a year ago pulling the strings from behind the scenes and meeting in secret closed door meetings with members of the House and Senate.”

Locker room castration: Nor is there much evidence, as the nearly useless Tom Brokaw suggested on NBC Tuesday night, that the Tea Party has been sent back to the locker room.

“There are plenty of relatively moderate House Republicans, just as there are relatively moderate Republicans in the Senate. The GOP moderates haven’t driven the political conversation in the House, and there’s no reason to believe the new class of 2014 will have any interest in being less assertive,” noted Peter Weber in The Week.

“Cruz refused to say if he’ll support McConnell’s bid to be majority leader. And the Republican freshman class of 2014 appears to be closer to Cruz’s vision of the GOP’s mission than McConnell’s get-stuff-done aspirations. There’s no way Obama will sign a repeal of his health care law, but that’s Cruz’s stated first priority. Here’s how Cruz welcomed former hog-castrator Joni Ernst of Iowa to the Senate:

[Tweet] Washington, get ready to squeal! Congratulations @joniernst! #MakeDCListen

ted_cruz_ap_328“Ernst, North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, Colorado’s Cory Gardner, Tom Cotton of Arkansas — will they follow McConnell’s lead, or dance with the fired-up Republican base that brung them? After five years of saying no to Obama — a strategy McConnell championed — can Republicans suddenly start saying yes? Political parties don’t have the same levers of power and persuasion they did even 10 years ago. Mitch McConnell’s party won the Senate, but his biggest battle may well be with his own caucus,” Weber wrote.

Alligators on acid: What compounds the problem for McConnell and Boehner is that they and their caucuses are progenitors of the Death of Compromise, a phenomenon Calbuzz has written about for years. This is an era – now in full bloom in Washington – in which compromise is viewed as capitulation. When Eisenhower lost seats in Congress, he had Sam Rayburn there willing and eager to cut deals; Reagan had Tip O’Neill. Compromise was – and is – how you get things done in a constitutional democracy. Unless, like Cruz et. al., you don’t believe in it.

Which they don’t. As Red State author Leon H. Wolf said Wednesday in an article titled “Dear Republicans: No One Elected You to Work with Democrats”: “Not only should Republicans not work closely with Democrats, they should instead keep them as far away as possible, preferably across a large moat filled with sharp stakes, acid, and alligators. That way, our side will be safer from friendly fire when we launch the flaming tar at the remaining Democrats in office.”

Like Cruz’s ideological godfather, Rush Limbaugh, said Wednesday on the radio: There’s only one reason why Republicans got elected — to stop Obama. “Republicans did not get elected to govern,” said Rushbloat.

Do nothing — that is their ultimate goal.

bluecaliforniaCalifornia remains true blue: While Republicans across the nation crowed and claimed an alleged “mandate,” California Democrats once more triumphed by sweeping all eight constitutional offices, starting with Jerry Brown’s capture of an unprecedented fourth term as governor, as they stopped the GOP wave at the Sierra. In the most favorable political atmosphere imaginable – a very small and very conservative turnout of voters bristling with rage against the other party’s president – Republicans won a few extra House and legislative seats, but still haven’t won a statewide post since 2006, an impressive streak of political failure.

Former Sen. Jim Brulte visits the Capitol Bureau.But Mr. Beef won some bragging rights: Jim Brulte, the big, burly boss of California Republicans, denied Democrats a two-thirds majority in the state Senate by winning two toss-up seats in Orange County and the Central Valley, and has a chance of doing the same for the Assembly when all the votes are tallied in some still too-close-to-call districts. Brulte vowed to return the GOP to relevance by rebuilding from the ground up when he took over as state party chair last year; while legislative super majorities these days are more symbolic than substantive, he also can claim partial credit for ousting at least two Democratic House incumbents, if nail-biting numbers hold up in final returns.

MethuselahSculptureDemocrats are really, really old: “When I had hair, Methuselah was walking the streets,” Brown cracked at an appearance in Torrance a few days before the election. Perhaps unintentionally, his self-deprecating joke highlighted the irrefutable fact that many longtime Democratic stars are getting awfully close to their sell-by dates. Dianne Feinstein (81) and Barbara Boxer (74) both lost powerful committee chairs in being pushed back to minority status amid the Republican’s recapture of the Senate, and must be mulling retirement; from Brown (76) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (74) to party chair John Burton (81) and a host of geezer Congress members (hello Lois Capps, 76) it’s time to let a new generation – AG Kamala Harris, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and Treasurer John Chiang, for starters —  have a crack at top-level jobs.

Neel Kashkari, bargain hunter. Four years ago, Meg Whitman spent $150 million for the honor of losing to Jerry Brown by 13 points; this time, vanquished Republican wannabe Kashkari achieved virtually the same result by forking out less than five percent of that amount. Neel made a lot of rookie mistakes, but deserves credit for trying to wrest control of the state party from the grip of grumpy old white men and evangelical right-wingers obsessed with what other people do with their private parts. “I’m just getting warmed up,” Kashkari said in his concession speech, and we expect to see him back in the campaign mix two or four years from now.

jail-cellThe lock ‘em up era may be ending: The most profound and lasting impact of this election may be the low-profile passage of Proposition 47, which is likely to change dramatically how the criminal justice system operates. Beginning with Jerry Brown’s very first term, Californians consistently voted for ever-tougher law-and-order sentencing measures of the Three Strikes genre, one big reason why the U.S. has the second highest incarceration rate in the world and the state’s massive prison system is illegally overcrowded. With Prop. 47, state voters ignored the pleas of the cop community and downgraded a host of low-rent drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, a breathtaking change of pubic opinion with implications that just began to sink in.

The CTA rules: The campaign for state Superintendent of Public Education pitted two different kinds of Democrats against each other: incumbent Tom Torlakson has close ties to traditional labor liberals and the California Teachers Association, with its longtime control of work rules that favor seniority and make it all but impossible to dump bad tenured teachers; challenger Marshall Tuck is allied with charter school advocates and Arne Duncan-style reformers favored by Silicon Valley Democrats and more moderate, if plutocratic, members of the party. The race was billed as a tightly contested faceoff between competing philosophies, but in the end Torlakson won easily, proving anew that the CTA is the most powerful special interest in California. All hail Gale Kaufman.

Gandalf wandJerry fails to cover the spread: OK, it was a fourth term, which is historic, and he ran better than anyone else in his party and, sure, he’s saving his millions of campaign contributions for potential ballot fights in his final term and, of course, he’s notoriously frugal, but jaysus, you’d think Gandalf would want to beat his former Chief of Staff Gray Davis’s 1998 20-point (58-38%) margin over Attorney General Dan Lungren! Brown did get 59%, but that was just 18 points over Kashkari’s 41%. And he could have done it easily: Propositions 1 & 2, for which he did campaign, got 67% and 69%.

All you bettors who took Neel and the points, you win. Your Calbuzz secret decoder rings are in the mail.

Op Ed: Why Politicians Run Knowing They’ll Lose

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

neel_kashkari-620x412By Chuck McFadden
Special to Calbuzz

If the polls are correct, and they usually are, Jerry Brown will demolish Neel Kashkari on Tuesday. In fact, much of the speculation among California pundits (see: Calbuzz election line) these days revolves around a single figure: the percentage of the vote by which Brown will win re-election.

Except for stalwarts in the Kashkari campaign, the only question among political junkies now seems to be how much of a defeat he will suffer.

Politicians are generally not masochists.  (Well, there was Harold Stassen.  He ran for, and lost, the Republican presidential nomination in 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976 and 1988.)  Leaving aside nine-time-loser Stassen, though, what motivates a politician to wage a forlorn campaign that can only end in crushing disappointment?

Counting the crowd: Some believe that rational candidates run doomed campaigns because they want to get their name out there and set the stage for a future run for something, somewhere.  One or two stumbles don’t spell doom. Richard Nixon was defeated for the presidency, defeated for the governorship of California, and was then elected president of the United States. Maybe there’s a post-election book deal out there, or a gig on Fox. And remember, even in defeat, Kashkari will become known up and down the state by November.  Name recognition is gold in politics, and now he’ll have it.  Gangway for 2018!

But think about this: To the underdog candidate, it’s not a forlorn campaign.  He or she is a center of attention.  The candidate speaks before adoring audiences made up of the party faithful, even if they are outnumbered 10 to one by the opposition.  People come up to the candidate and tell her how wonderful she is.  Making a speech before 200 vociferous backers can easily lead to a belief that the adoration is universal.  I mean, look at that crowd!

Politicians are usually commanding, take-charge types, and few of them believe that they can ever be on the losing end of just about any kind of competition.  The personality disorder that moves some people to become politicians not only demands attention, it fosters the belief that the politician is smart enough to pull this out by working hard, never mind what the media say.

Kashkari’s political future depends on how good an actor he is.  If his concession speech is bitter and resentful of the raw deal he got from those fool voters, forget about a future in politics.  But if he is gracious in defeat and voters watching him on television go away thinking, “Well, at least he’s a good sport,” maybe something might be possible down the road.

mcfaddenI, Neel: At the very least, Kashkari’s every utterance from now on is guaranteed at least some degree of attention.  Jimmy Carter is on television all the time.  There was even a play about him in New York.  Bob Dole is now an admired elder statesman.

And there probably are a few sweet memories, like flecks of gold in a hunk of quartz.  Who knows?  Maybe there will be future opportunities to be adored.

Chuck McFadden is a former political reporter for The Associated Press and the author of “Trailblazer: A Biography of Jerry Brown” published by the University of California Press.

Why Kashkari’s Electoral Project Is a Total Failure

Friday, October 31st, 2014

ijackol001p4Neel Kashkari has argued throughout the 2014 campaign that he could alter the dynamics of party politics in California by demonstrating that a Republican who is socially moderate and economically conservative can win – or at least run competitively – in a race for governor.

The final Field Poll of the season demonstrates that thesis has failed. Kashkari is doing no better, and in most cases worse, than the no-name, down-ballot Republicans running for every other constitutional office: lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, controller, treasurer and insurance commissioner.

It’s not Kashkari who has demonstrated appeal to moderates, independents and dissatisfied partisans from across the aisle; it’s Gov. Jerry Brown who has done exactly this – running stronger than any of his party comrades down the ballot.

As Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, described Kashkari’s effort rather indelicately: “Evidence would suggest his campaign has had no effect.”

At the same time, DiCamillo observed, “Jerry Brown has done well. His tenure in office is giving him surplus votes beyond what any of the other Democrats are getting.”

xerxesWill Kashkari beat GOP turnout? Although actual voter registration is 43% Democrat, 28% Republican, 23% no party preference (NPP) and 5% other, the Field Poll’s survey sample — based on the actual voter file and expected turnout in a low-interest election — calculates an electorate that is 43% Democrat, 34% Republican and 23% NPP and other.

Nevertheless, Brown leads Kashkari 54-33% — just beating the all-important Calbuzz line – with broad appeal across race, age, gender, region and ideology.

“Kashkari’s argument that he’s doing something unique is not true,” said DiCamillo. “In fact, Brown is doing something unique: he’s pulling support beyond his base to a much greater extent than any other Democrat on the ballot.”

Kashkari is drawing just 76% of Republicans and 73% of conservatives while Brown is supported by 83% of Democrats and 90% of liberals. In the middle, Brown beats Kashkari 59-22% among NPP voters and 55-25% among moderates.

In other races down the ballot, the Field Poll finds:

Lieutenant Governor: Gavin Newsom (D) over Ron Nehring (R) 47-37%
Attorney General: Kamala Harris (D) over Ronald Gold (R) 49-36%
Secretary of State: Alex Padilla (D) over Pete Peterson (R) 44-37%
Controller: Betty Yee (D) over Ashley Swearengin (R) 44-36%
Treasurer: John Chiang (D) over Greg Conlin (R) 46-35%
Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones (D) over Ted Gaines (R) 45-33%

TorlaksonAndTuckSupe of PI an Actual Battle The only race at all competitive is the contest for Superintendent of Public Instruction – a non-partisan race – in which Tom Torlakson and Marshall Tuck are tied at 28%, with 44% undecided. Both candidates are Democrats but eschewing party labels.

Torlakson leads by 7% among white non-Hispanic voters while Tuck is preferred by Latino, black and Asian voters. But Torlakson is favored by liberals while Tuck is leading among conservatives.

Clearly the lack of party identification gives voters fewer cues by which to guide their votes.

Which leads back to Kashkari’s fundamental problem: he’s a Republican in a state where the GOP brand is dog meat. And he’s running against a governor who is widely seen as doing a good job at guiding state government and moderating the liberal leanings of the Legislature.

Moreover, Kashkari’s basic premise – that California is going to hell in a hand basket – is simply not believable to voters who’ve seen the state budget balanced, partisan rancor cooled and slow but steady economic recovery throughout the state under Brown’s leadership.

Kashkari’s best argument for his project would seem to be that while taking moderate stances on abortion, immigration and gay marriage – breaks from the standard California Republican ideology – he’s at least not doing much worse than the run-of-the-mill GOP contenders.

But for all his attempts to reach beyond the traditional Republican base, Kashkari trails Brown among Latinos 62-23% and among women 57-28%. Some outreach.

hooverThe Props and Hoover’s Goof The Field Poll also reported that while Brown’s pet project – Proposition 1 (water bonds) – leading handily and other polls have show Brown’s Proposition 2 (rainy day fund) also ahead, Proposition 45 (giving the insurance commissioner controlling review of health insurance rate changes, and Proposition 46 (increasing malpractice awards and drug testing doctors) both are headed to defeat.

The Field Poll’s finding on Prop. 45 – 42% no to 30% yes – is similar to the finding from the Public Policy Institute of California, which had it 46-39% no. But it differed from a poll put out by the Hoover Institution (done by YouGov) which had Prop. 45 leading 42-30%.

It appears however, the Hoover’s poll grossly miscalculates the electorate: on the Prop. 45 question, for example, it’s got 50% Democrats, 24% Republicans and 21% independents; 56% whites and 23% Hispanics; and 33% voters aged 18-34. Those are all way off what most experts expect and it over-samples in all the demographics that are more supportive of Prop. 45.

On the other hand, in a question asked of Kashkari supporters, Hoover had one finding that was pretty interesting (and not dependent on sample size).

Only 29% of his backers said “I’m mostly voting for Neel Kashkari” while 69% (including 70% of Republicans and 73% of conservatives) said “I’m mostly voting against Jerry Brown.”

The Field Poll interviewed  1,536 randomly selected registered voters Oct. 15-28 by land line and cell phone, including 941 likely voters. The maximum margin of error of likely voters is +/- 3.4 percentage points. The Hoover Institution’s  YouGov poll was conducted Oct. 3-17, with an internet panel of 1,273, including an over-sample of 273 interviews with 18-34 year-olds. The alleged margin of error for the entire sample (used for virtually none of the questions) was +/- 3.65%. This, however, is a misnomer: margin of error pertains to probability sampling and using an internet panel and matching or weighting it to various known sample populations is, by definition, not a random sample.

Time for Cheapskate Gandalf to Cover the Spread

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

jerrygandalfIt’s time for Gov. Jerry Brown to spend some of the millions in contributions he has on hand for his own re-election against Republican Neel Kashkari. Why? Not because he’s in danger of losing – he’s ahead 52-36% in the latest PPIC poll. But because he risks political humiliation by not covering the Calbuzz 20-point spread.

Our scientifically calculated spread is based on algorithms so complicated even we don’t understand them. But trust us, they take into account the 1998 governor’s race when then-Lt. Gov. Gray Davis beat Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren 58-38% at a time when Republicans constituted about 35% of registered voters compared to 29% today.

So what’s it going to be, Jerry: are you going to let a staffer outdo you in historic ranking of all-time smashing victories?

Given that Brown’s job approval rating is 54%, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, he is woefully under-performing at 52% against a former Goldman Sachs banker, fercryinoutloud.

300-xerxesFun with numbers: Granted, Gov. Gandalf is pulling 83% of Democrats, 44% of independents and even 14% of Republicans while Xerxes of Kashkari is drawing just 71% of Republicans, 40% of independents and 10% of Democrats. [Secret memo to Anne Gust: you really must hunt down those one-in-10 Democrats and give them a good tongue lashing).

But the two measures Brown is throwing money at – the Prop 1 water bond – and the Prop 2 rainy-day fund – aren’t doing all that great: 56-32% for Prop 1 and 49-34% for Prop. 2.

If Gandalf would wave his magic wand and put some money behind a couple of TV ads reminding California voters what it was like before he took over, he could surely beat the Calbuzz spread. Which is the bottom line of this woeful governor’s “race.”

PPIC has lots of nifty findings about ballot measures, which you can find here.

Speaking of Jerry and money: Mega-kudos to Thomas Peele and Josh Richman of the Bay Area News Group for an excellent investigative piece showing a) how Gov. Gandalf over the past few years has quietly accumulated millions of dollars in net worth through a web of real estate investments with big-time Bay Area developers; b) avoids public disclosure of the true size and details of his investments by hiding behind the state’s woefully out-of-date financial disclosure forms; c) is stonewalling on releasing any further information about what the reporters characterize as a “small fortune.”

While the rest of the California MSM was asleep at the wheel, Peele and Richman, with an assist from the indefatigable Howard Mintz of the Murky News, have published a must-read look at the personal finances of Brown and Gust that puts the lie to Gandalf’s public posturing about being the reincarnation of Sister Teresa:

But in recent years Brown has quietly built a small fortune in real estate and stock holdings, in part by going into business with prominent Oakland developers whom he once regulated as that city’s mayor, a Bay Area News Group analysis of Brown’s personal investments shows.

While Gov. Brown was busy over the last four years frugally balancing California’s budget, the state’s chief executive was actively building up his multimillion-dollar real estate portfolio. Just two years ago, he invested in an $11 million office building near Oakland International Airport in an area that is being considered for a massive “Coliseum City” redevelopment project that could include new baseball and football stadiums. And earlier this year Brown and partners broke ground on a 100-unit apartment building on prime real estate they bought in 2007 on the Oakland-Emeryville border.

Yo, Xerxes! If you really want to throw your money away on negative ads, check this out instead of trying to link Brown to dead kids.

(N.B.Calbuzz readers who’ve misplaced their Dr. P.J. Hackenflack decoder rings may ask, “Hey Calbuzz, why do you compare Kashkari – whose parents are Kashmiri Brahmins – to Xerxes, the Persian king who lived from 486 to 465 BC?” Because, grasshoppers, Kashkari looks uncannily like the character Rodrigo Santoro played in “The 300.”)

Also, according to the Calbuzz Style Book: One Sight Gag > 1,000 Wool-Gathering Fulminations. You could look it up.