Experience Counts?

BY David Chalian and Quinn Bowman  September 29, 2010 at 8:10 AM EST

Jerry Brown

California attorney general and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown speaks during a debate against Republican candidate Meg Whitman on Tuesday. Photo by Jose Luis Villegas-Pool/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

The 2010 midterm election narrative for members of Congress trying to keep their jobs goes something like this: You’re in trouble if you have a long record in Washington, because voters are fed up with the status quo and are ready to jettison whoever has been around too long.

But in California, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown doesn’t seem to be worried about the narrative seeping into his race.

In the first debate of that race Tuesday night, the 72-year-old Brown repeatedly used his record as a two-term governor, secretary of state and current attorney general as a reason to send him to the state’s highest office for a third time.

“I’ve got the know-how, I’ve got the experience, and at this point in my life I’ve got more insight and I believe more independence,” Brown said in the debate.

His Republican opponent, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, accused Brown of being beholden to public interest unions, tying one of his responses about how to fix the
state’s budget into a jab about his supporters.

“Mr. Brown talked about bringing people together,” said Whitman. “It will be a meeting of all the special interests and the unions who are there to collect their IOUs from the campaign that they have funded.”

Whitman has spent a record $119 million of her own money on the race, and said that makes her beholden to no one, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Meanwhile, Brown painted Whitman, 54, as a rich person who will give tax breaks to other rich people, highlighting that she supports the elimination of the capital gains tax.

A PLACE CALLED HOPE

With just five weeks left to go before the final 2010 ballots are cast, the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll may provide hope to President Obama and his party.

From the Wall Street Journal’s Wallsten and Yadron:

“The survey also found growing energy among some core Democratic voting blocs, such as African-Americans and Hispanics — a tightening that is common as an election draws closer, according to pollsters.”

“The GOP now holds a three-point edge, 46 percent to 43 percent, when likely voters are asked which party they would prefer to control Congress. That is down from a nine-point Republican lead a month ago.”

It may be enough to stave off a disastrous election for the Democrats, but remaining on the wrong side of the enthusiasm gap is still likely to make this a brutal election season for the majority party.

And young people, a key part of the Democrats’ success in 2008, are still poised to sit out this election in greater numbers than they did that presidential election year.

That likely explains the college campus rally President Obama held in Madison, Wisc., Tuesday night, as well as these comments to Rolling Stone magazine about how he talks to Democrats around the country:

“Guys, wake up here. We have accomplished an incredible amount in the most adverse circumstances imaginable.”

The political potency of the Tea Party is also on display in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, with nearly one-third of likely voters identifying themselves as supporters. Support for the Tea Party is on the rise and will likely continue to have an impact beyond the confines of Republican primary battles.

SKIPPING TOWN

Democrats need all the help they can get this election cycle and staying in Washington to conduct legislative sausage making is not high on the list of appealing options.

The majority party is looking to wrap up the business of funding the government through the election and will put off most of any other pending work for a lame duck session in November.

From The Hill’s Vicki Needham:

“The Senate is zipping through its work on the spending measure, which could be completed Wednesday if Republicans agree to waive procedural objections.”

“The Senate was scheduled to stay in town through next week but has opted instead to leave a stack of bills for the post-election session, including any decisions on the George W. Bush-era tax cuts. Lawmakers aren’t scheduled to return to Washington until Nov. 15.”