Trende: The Recall Is a Toss-Up

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

If you like political handicapping, you might want to read Sean Trende's column at RealClear Politics, where he offers three reasons Gavin Newsom might survive the recall election next month, and three reasons he might not. Trende sees the election as a toss-up, and I agree. In fact, I lean a little bit towards Newsom staying in power: I can't think of any other state that, if it had gubernatorial recall elections, Newsom wouldn't have already been successfully recalled long ago. It is worrisome that it took so long to bring this to a head with such an atrocious governor.

That said, two things Trende mentions could well combine to boot Newsom out: a strategic error on the part of the Democrats and apathy among their voters. Trende describes the error:

I hope it's the end of the road for Newsom. (Image by Patrick Perkins, via Unsplash, license.)
No prominent Democrat appears in the second question [of who should replace Newsom if he is recalled]. Instead, there are candidates like Holly Baade, a healer and shaman, John Drake, an ice skating coach, and Jackie McGowan, a cannabis business consultant.

This was billed as a selling point for Democrats, but I'm not so sure. It's true that the entry of Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante probably aided the recall of Davis in 2002 by inducing Democrats who disliked Davis to vote "yes," knowing that they could mark their second ballot for a credible Democrat.

Under these circumstances, though, Democrats are playing a dangerous game. Given the problems that the various GOP candidates have, they would likely have a tough time defeating any credible Democratic candidate. But there isn't one on the second ballot. The strategy Democrats are employing this time made sense in 2003 (even though it didn't work) and seems even less suited for this year's version.
So for California to have a Democrat governor, Democrat voters have to vote for Newsom to stay in office. How enthusiastic will they be for that positive alternative -- or for the negative one of voting against "Trump" -- the person many of them now think of when they contemplate the prospect of a Republican being in power, even if only for a year? I don't know, but if this comes down to how enthusiastic Democrats are, I can see Newsom losing.

-- CAV


: Corrected election date.

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