IIt was anger over Gavin Newsom’s pandemic restrictions that ultimately put a recall on the vote. But the California governor doubled down, placing his coronavirus policy at the center of his campaign, throwing his leading opponent — the anti-mask, anti-vaccine right-wing radio host Larry Elder — as a dangerous agent for Trump.
This winning strategy could have national implications for both Democrats and Republicans who are already looking forward to the 2022 midterm.
“Democrats running in other parts of the country next year would be wise to study Newsom’s playbook very carefully,” said Dan Schnur, an associate professor of politics at several universities. “Newsom was able to take the Covid issue, which might have been a deadly weakness for him, and could make it a significant strength.”
The Republican-led anti-mask, anti-vaccine stance was undermined by the rise in the Delta variant and an increase in infections that overwhelmed hospitals in California and around the United States, said James Lance Taylor, a political scientist at the University of San Francisco.
“At least in some states, especially blue states and some purple states, Newsom’s strategy has offered a model for democratic candidates,” Taylor added.
That Newsom triumphed over the recall by such a large margin also placed him in an ideal position to run for national office in the years to come, Taylor said. The state saw a huge Covid rise last winter, and Newsom has had to live with major setbacks, including an initially slow rollout of the vaccine – but in general, the governor was able to present a national case that his pandemic leadership saved lives.
The recall has also revealed the potential limits of Trumpian politics in a post-Trump era, says Mindy Romero, founder of the Center for Inclusive Democracy, a non-partisan research organization. A more moderate candidate could have appealed to Democrats willing to try something new, a strategy that helped Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger win over Democrat Gray Davis in California’s last recall recall in 2003.
“Many people voted against the recall because they were afraid that a Larry elder would become governor,” she said. “That does not mean they were happy with Newsom.”
Several voters with whom The Guardian spoke actually confirmed fears that California, led by seniors, could get in the way of Florida and Texas. “I’m with a lot of people who might want to remember Gavin but do not necessarily agree to have Larry Elder in there,” said John Friedrich, a retiree living in Stockton, California, about an hour south of the capital, Sacramento. .
Still, it cannot weaken the Republican Party’s ties to Trumpism. Elders who did not win the governorship nevertheless captured the largest share of votes among Newsom’s challengers, indicating that although he lacked broad appeal, he did give energy to the state’s vocal, right-wing minority. Elders, who hinted at a 2022 race in his concession speech Tuesday, have reused the former president’s “big lie” conspiracy theory that elections lost by Republicans were rigged against them.
“What we have learned from the recall is that Republicans are not ready for a post-Trump era. They are doubling Trump, “said Schnur, who has advised Conservative candidates. “If they want to resume the congressional majority next year, that could be a really big problem.”
Yet the peculiarities of California’s recall process and the state’s unique political structure make confusing attempts to see it as a broad barometer of national politics. Conservatives who opposed Newsom – a largely popular governor who won office in 2018 by a historic margin – were able to trigger a recall election by raising just $ 1.7 million. Signatures in a state with 22 million registered voters. Democrats are more than Republicans here almost two to one, which means that any Democratic candidate already has a significant mathematical advantage, regardless of their strategy.
But the fact that the race even appeared close to weeks before election day may be a lesson to Democrats in California and nationally that they will have to work hard to rally apathetic voters – especially minority voters who have long felt abandoned by their elected leaders.
When opinion polls in August found that distracted and disconnected democratic voters – especially Latino voters, who make up about 32% of the vote – could cost the governor his seat, Newsom’s campaign encrypted. “There was a crazy line at the end to talk to as many Latino voters as possible,” said Christian Arana, vice president of the Latino Community Foundation. “But what this election really showed was that outreach to Latino voters must happen early and often.”
Votes are still being cast in California, and neither the final count nor demographics are available yet. However, according to calculations by Political Data Inc, only about 30% of the ballot papers sent to Latino voters were returned early, while ballot papers sent to white voters had a return rate of 50%. Fewer people tend to vote in special elections than in presidential elections or midterms, but in all cases, “turnout is not representative of the population,” Romero said.
“Color voters have helped make California such a solid blue state, and they were clearly the key to Newsom’s victory,” she added. “Now I think Democrats can make this an opportunity to get to know voters better and build a better relationship with color voters.”