California Governor Jerry Brown will be seeking to burnish his foreign policy credentials when he leads a trade and investment mission to Mexico – California’s largest export market – in July.
Many Democrat operatives are beginning to whisper that Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President will falter like it did in 2008. Governor Brown has a proven track record of fiscal conservatism, executive management experience, and a reputation as a robust campaigner that would make Brown highly competitive in the 2016 presidential election.
Although Governor Brown is running for reelection this year, he does not have to campaign in the state. He currently holds a phenomenal 37% point advantage over his closest opponent. To give some perspective, the next most secure governors’ contest is in Minnesota, where Democrat incumbent Governor Mark Dayton holds a 14 point lead.
According to the Public Policy Institute of California, 58% of adults and 60% of likely voters approve of the way Brown is handling his job, up from 49% in December. About 75% of likely voters reported favoring the governor’s budget proposal, and a majority said they support Brown’s calls to link reserve fund deposits to capital gains revenue and to limit spending. “The idea of having a rainy-day fund is highly popular in the context of a drought emergency and budget surplus this year,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC’s president and CEO. “This is the most solid support for Brown we’ve seen from the public.”
With the home front secure, Brown has the luxury of being able to politically triangulate away from his party’s virulent liberalism and work at making friends with business.
California is not only the equivalent of the 10th largest economy in the world; the state’s $158.4 billion in exports was the second largest of any U.S. state in 2012. Goods exports have been growing 70% faster than the state’s gross domestic product for the last decade, and under Brown, exports now equal 8.1% of the California’s economy.
The key to this exporting juggernaut has been accelerating trade with Mexico, which is California’s largest export market with $26.2 billion in merchandise shipments and 2.8 billion in service sales. Those exports to Mexico are 10% higher than to Canada, 1/3 larger than to Japan, and 50% greater than to China. The export trade is not just concentrated within huge multi-national companies. Of the 61,894 California companies selling to Mexico last year, 96% were small to medium-size businesses.
A trade delegation of California government, business, investment, economic development, and policy leaders will join Brown on this mission being organized by the California Chamber of Commerce. The advertised focus of the trip will be on boosting direct investment in California, expanding bilateral economic and environmental cooperation, and seeking to connect California businesses with new opportunities and partnerships. To drum up visibility for the trade mission trip, Brown met last month with Mexican consuls general from cities across California.
Brown will emphasize his environmental credentials partnership with other countries. In his State of the State address in January, he called for the Golden State to push others to help address energy and environmental needs. “Reducing our oil consumption, two-thirds of which is imported by ships and tank cars, will take time, breakthrough technologies, and steadfast commitment. It will also require that the countries which burn the most fossil fuel join with us,” he said at the time. “We’ve started building those partnerships with other states and countries like China. We will go to Mexico next. California can’t do this alone.”
Jerry Brown led a similar mission to China last year, during which he met with government leaders including China Premier Li Keqiang, opened the California-China Office of Trade and Investment in Shanghai, and signed the first economic and environmental agreements. Brown later hosted China’s President Xi Jinping in California for the signing of a climate change pact. Brown has signed similar pacts with leaders from Canada, Israel, and Peru to combat climate change and strengthen economic ties.
Democrats in 2012 made the Presidential election a referendum on Mitt Romney’s work at the private-equity firm Bain Capital. Republicans intend to do the same with Hillary Clinton’s supposedly dishonest statements regarding the 2012 terrorist attack killings at the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya and what now looks like her misguided attempt to “push the reset button” with America’s relationship with a Russian government that has menaced Ukraine and its neighbors.
California controls 55, or 20%, of the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win the Presidency. My political contacts in the Democratic Party say Hillary Clinton’s 2016 support is miles wide and only inches thick. Today’s release of secret memos from officials under Secretary of State Clinton regarding a potential Benghazi cover-up will not help Hillary’s Presidential prospects. If she falters, Jerry Brown, with his virtually guaranteed lock on California voters, seems to be the second strongest pick for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency.
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