In the 1990s, when Jerry Brown ran for president against Bill Clinton, his whole persona had a populist streak. He crashed with supporters instead of staying in fancy hotels; he raised money with an 800 number (the precursor to netroots fundraising); he railed against big-money interests. He even once put the future president of the United States on hold while he took another phone call. (Clinton gave up after waiting about ten minutes and disconnected.)
But then he became mayor of Oakland and turned into a friend of developers, a tough-on-crime hardass and a promoter of military school. And he ran for attorney general as that Jerry Brown, not the old one.
So I'm glad to see some of his populism starting to re-emerge, not that I really think it's going to stick (he's still against raising taxes on the rich), but because it's the only way he's going to beat Meg Whitman.
Meg's got a problem -- the incumbent Republican is now rated as the worst governor ever, with the lowest popularity ratings in history. So Brown's going to be running against the party that, by almost all accounts, wrecked California -- and Whitman will have to run like hell away from the titular head of her own party in this state.
Brown also has the advantage, if he wants to take it, of being able to rail against the very types of financial institutions that Whitman and her anti-regulation platform represents. If he can make this about Wall Street, he wins, going away.