The LA Times recently asked whether Gov. Jerry Brown is running for re-election, even though it’s obvious that he is.
The better question – indeed, the biggest purely political question in California electoral politics – is different: is Gov. Brown running for president in 2016?
Brown has said previously that he would be more focused on the job in this second go-around as governor because national ambitions are beyond him.
But these days, he and his allies are playing up his record nationally. He gave a big speech in Washington at the Center for American Progress, and the governor has been touting California as an alternative to DC. National publications are buying the story, and Californians are selling our supposed comeback. (My own take: You have got to be kidding. Washington has enough problems of own — and doesn’t need to add more by copying California reforms that aren’t really working).
What’s more, consultants aligned with Brown are already on red alert, attacking prospective candidates and answering critics. As a personal example of the itchy trigger fingers in the Brown camp, I got slammed by Brown-allied consultants on Twitter for the crime of saying the governor was playing “small ball” — in a post on this site that was devoted to mocking Abel Maldonado. Since Maldonado and the other GOP contenders for governor have zero chance of winning, such defensiveness makes little sense – unless the Brown team has a taste for overkill and/or the governor is running for something else.
Even without the recent talk, Brown’s own history begs the question. He’s run for president three times, including twice during his previous governorship. He’s never been a fan of Clinton-style politics (he ran against Bill in 1992), and Hillary Clinton is the Democratic frontrunner for 2016. Certainly, there would be questions about Brown’s health and age (he’ll be 78 in 2016), but he’s physically vigorous. Hillary isn’t a spring chicken herself, and Republicans have their own long history of offering elderly candidates (McCain, Dole, Reagan).
In his late in life return to politics, Brown has made a habit of repeating himself – first to statewide office (Secretary of State in the ‘70s, a.g. in the aughts) and then to the governorship. At this point, another run for president is the next logical step.