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Poll: California voters approve of Jerry Brown, not the Legislature

A new poll suggests California voters approve of the job that Gov. Jerry Brown is doing by a 2-to-1 margin – albeit with many undecided. Their view of the Legislature is poor.

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"We've kicked the can down the road too long. You can't do that forever," he says.

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The video link is being sent to Republican districts, and some reports claim Brown may be buying cable time to air it in certain districts. In order to get his tax-extension plan on the ballot, he needs four Republicans – two in the Assembly and two in the Senate – to approve. So far, he has won no converts. The GOP state convention last weekend indicated strongly that those who move toward Brown do so at their own peril.

“The party gave them a big warning, saying that if you do this you are a traitor,” says Barbara O’Connor, director emeritus of the Institute for Study of Politics and Media at California State University, Sacramento.

California's political calculus changing?

But she and others say that two recent changes in the California political backdrop may mitigate that warning.

One is that both the Los Angeles and state Chambers of Commerce have pledged to support candidates who back Brown's special-election call in coming elections. The other is that California’s new “top two” primary – which will pit the top primary vote-getters against each other in the general election, no matter what party they are from – may protect such candidates from the wrath of the most conservative GOP base voters.

“With these two changes, a move towards Brown for a Republican might not be the same kiss of death as for the last ones who voted for tax increases,” says Ms. O’Connor. “The two chambers of commerce want to say, “We’re there for you, so don’t automatically conclude, ‘If I do this, I will automatically lose.' "

Although the poll is good news for Brown, it doesn’t carry as much weight as he would like, says Jack Pitney, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College. One reason is that it’s a survey of registered voters, not those likely to cast ballots in a low-turnout special election. Second, sentiment in individual legislative districts may differ from statewide opinion, with voters in GOP constituencies more likely to oppose tax extensions than voters in Democratic districts.

“Brown is more popular than the Legislature, but that’s not saying much,” Mr. Pitney says.

He notes that although Brown’s approval rating is in positive territory, it’s below 50 percent, and it’s lower than his immediate three predecessors enjoyed at this point in their terms.

“The mad-as-hell antitax voters are probably going to show up, but the open question is whether the governor and his union allies can get their supporters to the polls,” Pitney says.

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