Early indications are that Californians might be in for some topsy-turvy election campaigns next year, with high-profile candidates from both parties seeking to co-opt issues that have in recent years been strengths of the opposing party.
Exhibit A, assuming he ever gets around to formally announcing his intent to seek re-election, is Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat who has given every indication that he intends to run as a tightfisted, penny-pinching fiscal conservative whose miserly ways have converted the state's financial statements from red ink to black.
It will be a message that American voters have come to expect hearing from Republicans.
Last month's Fiscal Outlook report from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office laid the groundwork for Brown to credibly carry out such a campaign. It forecasts a $5 billion surplus for the coming year's budget and predicts that annual operating surpluses will grow to nearly $10 billion in four years.
Perhaps more important than that bottom line is the legislative analyst's forecast that state revenues and surpluses will continue to grow, although more slowly, even after the temporary tax increases that Brown persuaded voters to approve last year expire. That assessment will allow Brown to credibly assert that the tax increases will in fact be temporary, as promised.
In addition, the fact that both the state's economic growth and government finances have improved after passage of Proposition 30 will blunt any argument that Brown's temporary tax increases inflicted economic harm.
Meanwhile, two of Brown's potential Republican opponents have been talking like Democrats, at least on a couple of key issues.
In a coming-out-as-a-candidate interview with the San Francisco Chronicle last month, former Assistant Treasury Secretary Neel Kashkari said he voted for President Barack Obama in 2008, voted against Proposition 8 and filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of overturning the state's ban of same-sex marriages, and believes the government should stay out of people's lives on the issue of abortion.
Another potential candidate, former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, is the son of a Mexican immigrant who has long advocated for more tolerant GOP positions on illegal immigration.
Do those two sound like stereotypical Republican candidates to you?
Such partisan role reversals will spread down the ballot in many districts, including Ventura County's battleground 26th Congressional District.
Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, of Camarillo, told me he intends to use his candidacy as a means to "push and pull" the Republican Party in such a way that a majority of voters will begin to again see the GOP as a party that has a superior vision for governing. Gorell has taken a lead role among California Republicans in lobbying their colleagues in the House of Representatives to adopt comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship.
Gorell seeks to portray himself as a moderate -- although he says he doesn't like the word -- and cast some votes in the Assembly this year that did set him apart. He backed the new law granting driver's licenses to those who are in the country illegally and was the only Republican to back a ban on lead ammunition for hunting -- a risky position because it could draw the enmity of the National Rifle Association, which opposed the bill.
For her part, freshman Rep. Julia Brownley, of Westlake Village, has hardly been behaving as a stereotypical Democrat. Her first action was to seek and receive a position on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, and she has made services for veterans her signature issue.
In addition, she's focused much of her energy on the issue of jobs and the economy.
Brownley has toured more than a half-dozen prominent local businesses including Amgen and Haas Automation, and also visited farms and conducted a round-table event with county ranchers, a traditionally Republican group. Keeping faith with them, she was one of about two dozen Democrats in the House to vote for the Farm Bill, despite strong personal reservations about the cuts in food-stamp benefits it included.
Is all this a sign of an emerging, healthy trend toward political moderation, an indication that perhaps California can help lead the nation out of the polarized political gridlock that has so paralyzed its governance?
If it is, then what will all these candidates argue about?
Perhaps they could start with the minimum wage increase -- the one that Brown signed for California and the proposed federal increase that congressional Democrats support. That's something upon which virtually every candidate from each of the parties still disagrees.