Politics How Gavin Newsom beat the recall

07:50  15 september  2021
07:50  15 september  2021 Source:   politico.com

California recall election: Will the state keep or remove Gov. Gavin Newsom? Results could take time.

  California recall election: Will the state keep or remove Gov. Gavin Newsom? Results could take time. Tuesday is decision day in California and voters in the Golden State will decide whether they will keep Gov. Gavin Newsom or remove him from office.It's been a winding path to get here, but polls show the Democrat is likely to keep his job leading a state that is known nationally as a liberal trendsetter.

LOS ANGELES — For a moment this summer, Gavin Newsom’s inner circle feared the effort to recall him could be drawing uncomfortably close.

Gavin Newsom wearing a suit and tie: California Gov. Gavin Newsom. © Justin Sullivan/Getty Images California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

In late July and early August, the Delta variant of the coronavirus was raging, threatening school reopenings in the fall. Public polling showed many Democrats were so apathetic about voting that it was possible — if turnout was low enough — that a Republican could win.

“Clearly there was a time in the summer where the thing went from ... this optimism [about Covid] like, ‘Oh, the war is over, it’s ended,’ to ‘Oh, shit,’” said Ace Smith, Newsom’s lead strategist.

Newsom's nightmare: How one November day fueled the recall

  Newsom's nightmare: How one November day fueled the recall SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — On a single day last November, two events helped set the course for just the second recall election against a governor in California history: Gov. Gavin Newsom dined with 11 friends and lobbyists at one of the country’s most expensive restaurants as he pleaded with Californians to stay home, while those looking to kick him out of office won four more months to qualify for the ballot. Photos of the maskless dinner showed the Democratic governor going against what he had been urging for months to combat the coronavirus: don’t gather in groups, keep your distance, wear a mask.

Against that backdrop, principals involved in the campaign detailed a furious effort by Newsom's campaign to put the race out of Republicans' reach. The turning point for the campaign, according to Newsom’s strategists, came in the governor’s adoption of aggressive mask and vaccine mandates — both widely popular in California — and in Newsom’s avalanche of spending depicting his top Republican opponent, Larry Elder, as an anti-science clone of former President Donald Trump.

“It was about making the campaign a referendum on the opposition, not just a kind of a dunking booth exercise on the incumbent,” said Sean Clegg, a senior Newsom strategist who oversaw paid media and messaging for the campaign.

Clegg reduced the Newsom campaign’s closing argument not to a rejection of the alternative: “A ‘Yes’ vote for this recall means electing a pro-Trump, anti-vaccine Republican who is going to reverse the mandates on Day One.” It was the presentation of that “simple choice," Smith said, that marked the “turning point” in the campaign, cementing Newsom's victory.

Recall election: Campaign trip for Gavin Newsom could bring bigger benefit to President Biden

  Recall election: Campaign trip for Gavin Newsom could bring bigger benefit to President Biden President Joe Biden's campaign trip for California Gov. Gavin Newsom ahead of Tuesday's recall election, could help Biden as much as Newsom.Polls indicate Republicans’ attempt to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom is likely to come up short in Tuesday’s election – for which many votes have already been cast.

By Labor Day, Newsom had turned what started as an up-or-down vote on his governorship into a choice between him and Elder, the radio show host Newsom relentlessly tethered to Trump — with a predictable outcome in this staunchly Democratic state. For Newsom, the emergence of Elder as the GOP's standard bearer was an unexpected gift, so beneficial to the governor that many Republicans came to resent Elder for turning the race into a traditional — and unwinnable — choice election.

Within 50 minutes of voting centers closing Tuesday night, Newsom’s defeat of the recall was called by four television networks and the Associated Press, ending a race that began as an almost laughable longshot, became unexpectedly competitive, then settled out where it began, with Newsom prevailing in a blowout.

Even before the final ballots were cast, Newsom’s advisers were selling his campaign as a template for Democrats nationally in the midterm elections. Mask and vaccine mandates such as those embraced by Newsom are viewed favorably by a majority of Americans, polls show. For Democrats, Smith said, “there’s a huge thing to take away, which is don’t be timid on Covid. That was the turning point in this campaign, when Newsom came out and took bold action on vaccine mandates. … We go out and we figure out that not only is it really good policy and bold policy, which he was going to do no matter what, but it’s actually really good politics.”

What Makes Newsom's Recall Election Different From Davis' 2003 Ouster

  What Makes Newsom's Recall Election Different From Davis' 2003 Ouster A Democratic strategist who advised former California Governor Gray Davis said there are "several" differences between the two gubernatorial recall elections.Newsom and Davis, both Democrats, are the only California governors who have had to defend their seats through a recall election since the state adopted its recall process in 1911. While voters elected to remove Davis from office nearly 18 years ago, South said he believes the September 14 recall election "is going to be a blowout win for Newsom.

If Newsom’s response to the coronavirus ultimately helped him beat the recall, it was also one of the primary reasons that he faced the threat of ouster in the first place. Late last year, Newsom’s opponents, citing difficulty collecting signatures during the pandemic, successfully petitioned a Sacramento judge last year to extend their signature-gathering window for an extra 120 days, giving them enough time to turn what would likely have been a doomed signature-gathering effort into a successful one. That same month, Newsom was caught attending a dinner party at The French Laundry, a world-famous restaurant in California’s Napa Valley, just as he was discouraging the state’s residents from gathering for the holidays.

Newsom later called his outing a “bad mistake,” and months later, advisers still had difficulty explaining it. One adviser simply shook his head. Another said, “When you’re the governor of California, you’ve got advance teams, you’ve got people who can figure this shit out for you, and it wasn’t done.”

“It was incredibly damaging. Maybe not in the end. But that was the boost that the recall organizers needed,” the adviser said. “Most political news doesn’t get to the awareness of quote-unquote real people, and that one broke through, because it was easy to understand, and it’s easy to get upset about no matter what your political affiliation is.”

Allegations fly as recall vote looms for California’s Newsom

  Allegations fly as recall vote looms for California’s Newsom LOS ANGELES (AP) — In a blitz of TV ads and a last-minute rally, California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom urged voters Sunday to turn back a looming recall vote that could remove him from office, while leading Republican Larry Elder broadly criticized the media for what he described as double standards that insulated Newsom from criticism and scrutiny throughout the contest. The sunny, late-summer weekend was a swirl of political activity, as candidates held rallies, continued bus tours and cluttered the TV airwaves with advertising offering their closing arguments in advance of the election that concludes Tuesday.

Republicans hammered Newsom for the hypocrisy. Yet even then — even after the recall qualified for the ballot — the numbers were on his side. This is a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2-to-1, where Newsom beat his Republican opponent in 2018, John Cox, by 3 million votes, and where Joe Biden, who campaigned for Newsom in Long Beach on Monday, beat Trump by nearly 30 percentage points two years later.

With the power of incumbency Newsom raised more than $70 million, dwarfing his Republican opponents. And Newsom’s allies successfully dissuaded any other prominent Democrat from joining the race. Unlike in 2003, when then-Gov. Gray Davis was recalled and replaced by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger — with Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante also on the ballot — Democratic-leaning voters on Tuesday had no viable alternative to siphon votes away from Newsom.

In an interview, Davis said he thought before California’s filing deadline this year that a celebrity might get into the race, a wild card that he said could have "greatly improved" Republicans' prospects.

“In California, celebrity is the coin of the real,” Davis said. “If you have Oprah Winfrey running, or you have ‘The Rock’ [Dwayne Johnson] running, or you have George Clooney running, you have some megastar. … It’s the currency of the realm, and it matters more in California than some other place.”

What The French Laundry Has to Do With Gavin Newsom's Recall Election

  What The French Laundry Has to Do With Gavin Newsom's Recall Election A dinner California's governor attended last November has been credited with galvanizing support for the recall petition that ultimately qualified for a ballot.More than a month before the first COVID-19 vaccine received emergency use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), California was battling a rising wave of new COVID-19 infections with health experts predicting additional increases during the holiday weeks that were still to come.

But no megastar got in. One celebrity who ran, Caitlyn Jenner, was a non-factor. And the other, Elder, was nothing short of a boon to Newsom’s campaign — a ready-made highlight reel with his opposition to gun control and the minimum wage, an ex-fiancee who said he brandished a gun at her and his suggestion that it could be argued slave owners were owed reparations.

The entrance of Elder into the race — and his vaulting ahead of every other Republican contender — “woke everybody up, and just at the right time,” a Newsom adviser said. “That made it real.”

Even many Republicans recognized the damage Elder was doing. In a race where the GOP was desperate to train the public’s attention singularly on Newsom, a strategist for recall proponents said, “Elder’s entry into the race killed us because it gave Newsom the ability to take the focus off himself and put it on the crazy anti-vax guy.”

The strategist said, “You combine that with Delta virus exploding and in the news every day, it was a perfect storm.”

Despite the benefit of having Elder to pummel, Newsom still had to persuade Democrats that it was worth turning out. As recently as last month, public polling suggested Democrats were far less motivated than Republicans to vote in the election — and less likely to participate in the all-mail election. Complicating Newsom’s effort was the election being held in an off year.

Newsom’s internal polling had never showed him trailing. But Clegg said the “profound enthusiasm gap was real … It’s what we worried about the most.”

On final day, Californians cast votes to keep, oust governor

  On final day, Californians cast votes to keep, oust governor California voters headed to the polls Tuesday to cast final ballots in an election focused on whether Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom should keep his job. Voters were asked to answer whether Newsom should stay in his post and if he doesn't, who should replace him. Dozens of candidates, most of them Republicans, are running for the seat. Many Californians voted in recent weeks by dropping off their ballots at designated boxes or by mail. Others chose to cast their ballots at vote centers on Tuesday, the last day to do so.

“For us, this was always a question of are we going to wake up the blue giant or are we going to sleep through this thing,” he said. “The challenge for the campaign from the very beginning was to create a sense of urgency on our side.”

But Newsom’s advisers believed public polls that put the race within the margin of error were incorrectly assuming unenthusiastic Democrats wouldn’t vote. Democrats, Smith said, may not have been excited about voting in a recall election, but “it was more like taking out the trash. They’re just going to do it.”

Still, the attention those public polls drew to the race were invaluable for Newsom, creating a sense of urgency among Democratic voters.

Smith said, “Every time something wakes up your base, you want to send them a thank you note.”

By Labor Day weekend, the Newsom campaign’s internal polling had him defeating the recall by 10 percentage points or more, according to multiple advisers. And after that, their numbers barely moved. Before Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vice President Kamala Harris and Biden came to the state to campaign with Newsom, the race was already over.

Newsom was simply trying to run up the score.

The margin may matter. Before initial results were tallied Tuesday, Newsom’s aides were pressing reporters not to lock in the first reported margin of victory, believing it would expand as late-arriving mail ballots are counted.

Newsom will be up for reelection in just more than a year, and some of the same Republicans who challenged him in the recall may run again, but now with a drubbing to their names. They include not only Elder and Cox, who were pulling 42 percent and 4.8 percent of the vote, respectively, in early returns, but also Kevin Faulconer, the former San Diego mayor who was once viewed by moderate Republicans in California as one of the party’s most credible candidates for statewide office in an otherwise thin bench. He was drawing 9.8 percent of the vote in early returns.

What Republicans failed to do in the recall, said Rob Stutzman, a GOP political strategist in California, was elevate "someone who can appeal beyond the base. And there’s a road map for this. It’s been done, frankly, in blue states for decades ... But you have to put forward a moderate."

Stutzman, who advised Schwarzenegger, said Faulconer "was the great hope" for Republicans this year but never pivoted to independents and moderate Democrats after Elder got in the race and captivated the party's pro-Trump base.

"Now," Stutzman said. "he'll have to somehow regain confidence of the donors that next year would be any different."

Of the prospects next year of every Republican who ran in the recall, he said, "all are worse" after the outcome on Tuesday.

Vice President Kamala Harris rallies with Newsom ahead of California recall election .
Vice President Kamala Harris rallied for California Gov. Gavin Newsom in the Bay Area on Wednesday ahead of Tuesday's recall election. Newsom is facing a two-part question on next week's recall ballot: whether voters would like to recall him and who they would like to replace him with.

usr: 0
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