This is a sampling from Bay Area News Group's Political Blotter blog. Read more and post comments at www.ibabuzz.com/politics.

Oct. 16

As Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, helped convene a joint committee hearing on why national monuments and parks were shut down (hint: He says it's not because his party shut down the government!), a freshman lawmaker from the Bay Area took him to task.

"I came to Congress to solve problems. I came to Congress to try to work across the aisle and raise the political discourse in this country, and try to set a better tone. And instead I am taking part in a hearing that makes the McCarthy era look like the Enlightenment," said Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. "The fact that it's taking place during a government shutdown manufactured for political purposes by my Republican colleagues just makes it even worse. This is worse than fiddling while Rome burns -- this is fanning the flames while Rome burns, this is looting and dancing while Rome burns."

It was a joint hearing of the House committees on Natural Resources (of which Huffman is a member) and Oversight and Government Reform (which Issa chairs).

Oct. 17

Conservative Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly's gubernatorial campaign floated a memo Thursday outlining a "path to victory" in which incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown and moderate Republican challenger Abel Maldonado cancel each other out.

The memo by Donnelly spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns insists Brown will have a tough record to run on, given that about 2 million Californians remain unemployed and the state now tops the nation in poverty.

"Meanwhile, after suffering a mass exodus of his campaign staff, liberal Republican Abel Maldonado has been attempting to refashion himself as a pro-tax, pro-gay marriage, pro-illegal immigration supporter -- positions which are largely out-of-step with the mainstream of the Republican Party," the memo said. "Tim Donnelly, on the other hand, has clearly defined where he stands on the issues and hasn't wavered in those positions."

And next year will be California's first gubernatorial election subject to the new top-two primary system, in which candidates of all parties compete in the same primary and the top two vote-getters advance to November's general election regardless of party.

"With very little marketplace differentiation between presumed candidate Jerry Brown and Abel Maldonado, it clears a path for Tim Donnelly to claim his place among the top two finishers," the memo said. "Why would a Republican vote for Abel Maldonado, when his positions aren't that divergent from Jerry Brown's?"

I'm not sure I buy that. But even if Donnelly were to finish in the top two, it's hard to see how he could prevail in a general election against Brown or even against Maldonado.

California's electorate as of February was 44 percent Democrats, 29 percent Republicans and 21 percent nonpartisan, so any statewide candidate needs to reach far, far beyond the GOP base in order to win. Donnelly is a staunch gun-rights advocate, abortion-rights opponent and former Minuteman anti-immigration activist, and it's hard to imagine him forming a strong bipartisan coalition. Deep-red conservatism, while still popular in certain legislative districts, simply isn't what the statewide electorate now embraces.

And Brown's popularity remains relatively strong. The Field Poll in February found Brown's approval rating at 57 percent, the highest point of his current term and the most approval a governor has seen since Arnold Schwarzenegger at the end of 2007 (though he finished his term in 2010 with a paltry 23 percent approval rating. The Public Policy Institute of California in September pegged Brown's approval rating at 49 percent among likely voters.

California earlier this year was outpacing the nation in job creation, with payroll growth of around 2 percent; in the year from August 2012 to 2013, however, the state has added jobs at a rate of only about 1.5 percent. The state's unemployment rate in August was 8.9 percent, compared to 7.3 percent nationwide.