There’s No Political Risk in Backing HSR
A new Field Poll is out showing that Governor Jerry Brown leads Neel Kashkari by 20 points. Governor Brown is going to win a fourth term, the only question is just how badly will Kashkari get beaten.
That isn’t stopping some pundits from trying to find drama in a race that is a foregone conclusion. Dan Walters today argues that Kashkari’s chances depend on HSR.
Except they don’t. Kashkari is toast, and HSR is actually one of the reasons why he is doomed.
Contrary to what the media tells you, a majority of Californians still support HSR. They approve of Governor Brown’s job performance, and are going to re-elect him. These are related factors. If HSR was the ultra-controversial millstone around the governor’s neck that Walters and Kashkari would like it to be, Gov. Brown’s approval rating would be lower and so would his poll lead.
Voters have already taken Gov. Brown’s and Kashkari’s positions on HSR into account. And Gov. Brown has a 20 point lead. If HSR was unpopular, then Kashkari might have a path forward here. But it is popular, and so he is done. Stick a fork in him.
This logic applies to other races as well, including for Congress. Earlier this month, four California Democrats – all first term members of Congress – sided with Republicans in a vote to prevent federal funds from going to California High Speed Rail.
The four California Democrats are Ami Bera, Raul Ruiz, Scott Peters and Julia Brownley. All four of them should know better, but especially Julia Brownley. In 2012 Republicans funded attack ads against Brownley citing her vote for HSR. Brownley won anyway.
Walters has argued that 2014 is different because high Democratic turnout isn’t guaranteed, and that Democrats need to stoke their base. Here I agree with him – which is why it’s so utterly stupid of these four Democrats to side with the GOP on HSR.
Swing voters and the Democratic base do not vote for vulnerable Democrats when they embrace GOP policies. They do so when the Dems embrace progressive policies. So Bera, Ruiz, Peters and Brownley haven’t done anything to help themselves with their anti-HSR vote, and have instead alienated their base.
So when you see someone say this:
“If you’re facing a competitive election in California,” said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont-McKenna College, “opposition is probably the smart move.”
Feel free to roll your eyes, because it’s nonsense. California voters either back HSR, or oppose it but don’t place much priority on it. Neither Governor Brown nor these freshmen Congressional Democrats have anything to fear from Republicans on HSR.