Brown's lack of a real plan to deal with the state budget problem is the political strategy that keeps on giving. It gave his Republican opponent Meg Whitman no specific policies at which to shoot. And now, this lack of a strategy is helping him keep expectations low about what he may be able to do, budget-wise.
But Brown is upping the ante -- or more preciseling, downing it. Brown visited Sacramento Thursday to meet with department of finance officials and talked afterwards about how terrible the state's budget picture is. Mission accomplished: expectations for Brown are even lower.
Politically, this approach is a no-lose. If the budget stays bad, Brown didn't say he could fix it. If the budget improves a little bit with the economy, Brown might be able to make outsized claims of credit, even if the deficit remains large. Of course, as a policy and governing strategy, Brown's approach doesn't resemble anything like leadership. That would require pushing top-to-bottom reform of the budget system. But if he promised that, he'd pay a political price if he couldn't deliver.