One Reason Why Senators Are Attacking Prop 38: It's Gaining

If you thought it was strange that California's U.S. senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, attacked the sponsors of the tax-hike-for-schools initiative Prop 38 last week, a new poll provides an explanation.

Prop 38 is gaining.

The latest in a series of polls from Pepperdine University and the California Business Roundtable show that Prop 38, a 12-year income tax hike to create new moneys for schools, is gaining. It is the first of the three polls when there were more "yes" supporters than "no" supporters in the poll.

The poll, taken late last week, came as Feinstein, Boxer and legislative leaders sent a letter to the California PTA, which is sponsoring the measure along with wealthy civil rights attorney Molly Munger.

The letter urged the PTA to stop being negative about Prop 30, the competing temporary tax measure backed by Gov. Jerry Brown and organized labor.

It was a strange letter, since it came from politicians with a history of negative attacks and was delivered to the California PTA, the sort of organization politicians tend to court, not criticize.

But the letter, accompanied by a missive to Brown supporters from campaign consultant Ace Smith, was not really a plea for peace -- it was a way to slow down a competitor in Prop 38 by putting out a public message that Prop 38's backers aren't playing nice.

The PTA, to its credit, refused to back down or be pulled into the phony non-aggression pact suggested by Feinstein and Boxer.

The letter, and the attack on Prop 38, was a great compliment to an initiative that has appeared likely to lose. Prop 30, on the other hand, has mantained steady if not overwhelming support--a majority of voters.

But those dynamics might be changing.

The letter, a strange and desperate sort of act, was one bit of evidence of that change. This poll is another.

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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