Speed Reads

California Recall Election

Gov. Newsom, Democrats are now cautiously optimistic about the California recall election

There's a week left before California's gubernatorial recall election ends, and what was starting to look like a neck-and-neck race for Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) two weeks ago doesn't look quite so close anymore. 

"This has been a stomach-churning ride" for the governor, but "it is very clear that Newsom is feeling confident" now, Politico California reporter Carla Marinucci said Wednesday, following a Newsom rally featuring Vice President Kamala Harris. "Several polls are showing him pulling it out, and not by small margins. At this point it may be a question of how big the landslide is going to be."

Newsom's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic is what prompted the recall campaign, and GOP opposition to his popular pandemic policies might save him, Marinucci says. "But he was handed another, very potent piece of ammunition with the entry of Larry Elder. For four months they've tried to make this about a Trump-fueled recall, and then Larry Elder came into the race and became the poster child for everything Trump."

If more than 50 percent of California voters choose "yes" on the recall ballot, Newsom is out and the highest vote-getting alternative candidate becomes governor. Elder is polling at about 24 percent, 14 points higher than his nearest competitor, according to the FiveThirtyEight average.

Elder, a conservative talk radio host, "is convinced that voters are frustrated enough with Newsom that they will abandon their liberal views on climate, crime, and education — and their support for many of Newsom's efforts to quell the pandemic — to hire someone who would handle things more like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R)," David Weigel writes at The Washington Post. "Democrats are convinced that the governor will survive the recall as long as Elder keeps talking."

"In interviews over the weekend, supporters of the recall spoke of the friends and neighbors who wanted Newsom gone," Weigel reports, "and their disbelief at polling that shows just 43 percent of voters inclined to remove him."

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican movie star who won California's governorship in the 2003 recall campaign, told CNN's Dana Bash that Newsom is in "very dangerous" waters, and "the atmosphere is exactly the same" as before he unseated Gov. Gray Davis (D). Newsom is far more popular than Davis was, Elder much less popular than Schwarzenegger, and California is much less Republican, but if Democrats don't vote, that may not matter.