LOS ANGELES (AP) – An ominous four-word statement issued by California Gov. Newsom’s campaign on the morning of August 5 served as the shock Democrats needed to take seriously a recall election that could remove him from office: “This recall is close. ”
Newsom’s warning in an email about fundraising came just days after a poll showed that the once popular Democratic governor, who was elected in a landslide in 2018, faced the unthinkable prospect of losing his job in a state , who had not elected a Republican in a nationwide race in 15 years.
The race is “close enough to start thinking about what it would be like if we had a Republican governor in California. Sorry to put the thought in my head, but it’s true, ”wrote Newsom’s campaign.
The alarmist message was quickly incorporated into Newsom’s comments on the campaign trail – he was in serious trouble, he warned. The sequence of events combined to create a turning point in the race and helped give California’s dominant Democratic voters energy that until then seemed to greet the competition with a collective shrug.
Newsom on Tuesday easily returned on the attempt to retire him less than three years into his first term. Incomplete returns showed him on his way to a landslide victory with about 65% of the vote.
An important lesson in Newsom’s crucial victory is “you can wake up the base,” Newsom strategist Sean Clegg said this week. “The base may start sleeping … but you can wake the base.”
Newsom’s victory also gives him a dramatic comeback story, which he is likely to use as he seeks to expand his popularity ahead of a 2022 re-election race, while seeking to bring his name back to discussion of future presidential candidates.
The concentration of the narrative of the threat of a Republican uprising in the country’s most populous state “became a self-fulfilling prophecy where the more you talk about it being close, the more (Democrats) are aware of,” the Los Angeles-based Democratic consultant Michael Trujillo, who was not involved in the campaign.
For Democrats, the fear of losing the California governor’s seat also opened up national fundraising pipelines that would give Newsom a huge cash advantage over its rivals. This concern also provided a point of contact with minority communities about how their lives could change with a conservative Republican governor of Sacramento.
Newsom also took advantage of other critical points in the campaign with strategic decisions from its campaign and other factors involving incident or even luck.
The state raised an astonishing amount of tax dollars, resulting in a record surplus that allowed Newsom to dispense billions in funding for a variety of programs, from cleanup to waste to early education and homelessness.
In what Democrats said was a lucky turnaround for Newsom, the choice changed when Conservative talk show host Larry Elder took part in the race in July. The lawyer and author, who could have become the state’s first black governor, quickly emerged as Newsom’s main foil, and the race came into sharper focus for voters as a one-on-one matchup.
Elders came to the race with conservative-libertarian principles that were out of step with many of the state’s left-leaning voters.
He is a supporter of former President Donald Trump and a largely insulted figure in California outside his conservative base. Elders are critical of the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion rights, have spoken out in opposition to the minimum wage and promised to erase state vaccines and mask mandates that Newsom has insisted on saving lives.
With elders in the race, Newsom seized the opportunity to shape the election as a competition between two radically different visions for California’s future. He repeatedly warned that progressive values on the environment, health care and women’s rights were on the ballot, while elders would herald the return of an era of “Trumpism”.
Elder galvanized the Conservative base, but gave the Democrats a clear enemy.
“Larry Elder gave them so many gifts on one platter. He is literally the opposite of most voters in California, “said Dana Williamson, a top adviser to former Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown, who preceded Newsom.
Ron Nehring, former chairman of the California Republican Party and supporter of GOP candidate Kevin Faulconer, said the elder “served as a lifeguard for Gavin Newsom” because he gave the governor a goal and shifted attention away from his own record.
Newsom came to the recall with benefits not shared by governors in other states.
Democrats have a large numerical advantage over Republicans in California — a margin of nearly 2 to 1 or about 5 million voters. As a target for the recall, the political committee that supports Newsom was allowed to raise unlimited funds, giving him money to flood TV screens with advertising.
The committee that supports Newsom raised nearly $ 70 million at the end of August. By comparison, Elder’s campaign raised $ 15 million.
Newsom was also backed by the country’s largest state Democratic party and politically powerful public-service unions – his campaign said 25,000 volunteers took to the streets the weekend before the election.
Meanwhile, fights erupted among Republican candidates. The GOP never seemed to settle for an overall strategy party considered supporting a candidate and then dropped it. National Republicans remained largely on the sidelines after the Republican National Committee donated $ 250,000, mostly to the state party.
Another important benefit for Newsom came when his campaign managed to keep the replacement vote free of established Democrats. Newsom’s strategists were wary of the historical context: Voters in a 2003 recall recall ousted Democrat Gray Davis, who faced an intra-party political challenge from Lt.Gov. Cruz Bustamante.
Bustamante’s appearance on the ballot gave the Democrats a viable opportunity for the unpopular Davis, and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger ended up winning.
Newsom’s campaign team also pointed to the emergence of the highly contagious delta variant as a factor that rearranged the race, especially with seniors emerging as the dominant GOP rival.
“We saw the delta wave as a real turning point in this campaign. I think it was a turning point for us, ”said Clegg. “The delta that brought a clear and distinct focus was what is the effort in this election when a party has basically become an anti-scientific, anti-vaccinating, anti-popular health party.”
Referring to elders, he said the race could be distilled into a single sentence: “This recall is a vote for a pro-Trump, anti-wax Republican governor who will reverse vaccine mandates on day one.”