Gov. Jerry Brown's speech to the California Democratic Convention this past weekend in San Diego left the press corps -- and much of the audience -- scratching their heads.
The fact that Brown did not use his speech to make an impassioned case for his November ballot initiative to raise sales and income taxes temporarily.
"Brown Passes on Tax Pitch" read the headline on one prominent blog post.
The Sacramento Bee's headline read that "Brown sidesteps taxes."
Media accounts sounded almost disappointed, noting that Brown mentioned the tax measure only in passing and told the Democratic audience, "You'll get your marching orders soon enough."
Reporters and others had expected just the opposite.
Some Democrats have been embracing other tax increase initiatives -- one a labor-backed tax on millionaires, the other a broad income tax increase, sponsored by civil rights lawyer Molly Munger, to provide funds for debt and school districts.
The state Democratic convention seemed like the moment for Brown to explain why Democrats should back his measure over those competitors.
What's Brown up to? He declined to answer rerporters' question, but dodging the tax issue before this audience makes a good deal of sense.
If he had taken on the competing measures, the net effect might have been only to give more attention to those measures -- and fuel a debate over them.
Brown and his tax initiative might not benefit from a debate. His measure is popular in polls right now. But if Democrats realized that the other tax initiatives produced more revenue for schools (in the case of Munger's) or was targeted to richer people (the labor backed milionaire's tax), Brown could lose support.
Better to stay quiet and deny oxygen to those measures. That's standard political practice for frontrunners in a campaign. And right now, Brown's tax initiative is the frontrunner.