In 28 days, California voters will decide whether to recall Gavin Newsom. And the governor is getting nervous.
“Democrats up and down the state haven’t taken this seriously, whereas Republicans have,” Newsom told the Washington Post recently. “Republicans see this as a historic opportunity.”
He’s right. And there’s new polling out to prove the point.
An initial glance at new CBS polling numbers seems to suggest decent news for Newsom, with majority of registered voters (54%) saying they don’t think he should be recalled and 46% saying he should.
But dig a little deeper and the problem for Newsom becomes much more apparent. Among likely voters, just 52% oppose the Newsom recall while 48% support it.
And therein lies the problem for Newsom.
Democrats – even those who would consider themselves part of the activist base of the party – have not been heavily focused on the recall at least in part because the expectation was that Newsom, who still has generally positive job approval numbers, wasn’t in any real danger.
Base Republicans, on the other hand, have spearheaded the effort to get the recall on the ballot in the first place and view knocking off Newsom as a cause rather than just a campaign.
Consider this from the CBS writeup of the poll:
“Even looking at it by 2020 presidential vote, those who voted for former President Donald Trump are more apt to say they’re ‘very motivated’ to vote in this recall – by almost 20 points – than are those who backed President Biden.”
That sort of energy disparity between the two party bases is a very big deal – especially when you consider that this recall election is on a date that isn’t a typical voting one for California, and in an off-year to boot.
What makes Democrats’ position even more tenuous is that they purposely did not offer up any other prominent candidate for voters to choose if Newsom is recalled. (The ballot will have two parts. The first is whether Newsom should be recalled; the second is a a very long list of candidates who are running to replace him.)
That decision was made in hopes of keeping Democrats entirely unified behind Newsom – and in opposition to the recall. And there’s no question it raises the stakes of the first vote on September 14. But it also means that if Newsom is recalled, a Republican is going to be elected governor of the nation’s biggest state.
(Newsom has, of late, taken to urging Democrats to not even pick a candidate on the second question. “We’re just focusing on ‘no’ on the recall, leaving the rest blank,” he said earlier this month.)
It’s possible, of course, that the increased urgency – and the polling that shows Newsom could well be recalled – shakes Democrats out of their summer stupor. And because this is California, that would almost certainly mean that Newsom would keep his job since registered Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans.
But the CBS poll is rightly read as a major alarm flashing for Newsom and his party in California. A low-turnout election quite clearly puts him in danger. And at the moment, that is a real possibility.