The Delta variant, and the fact that millions of Californians are now once again being told they have to wear masks indoors at all times amid a new surge in cases statewide, presents a challenge for Governor Gavin Newsom as he tries to sell his leadership skills to a weary public.
Newsom remains somewhat unlikely to be removed from office, so long as his $40+ million campaign war chest and expected barrage of ads from heavy-hitters in the Democratic Party succeeds in getting enough supportive Democrats to vote. But two recent polls have suggested his margin is narrowing and support for the recall may be growing, and the pandemic is not helping.
It's a small poll, so take this with a grain of salt: As Inside California Politics reports, a new poll of 1,000 registered voters found that Newsom only has 48% support for staying in office, versus 46% of respondents who said they'd vote to recall him, with 6% still undecided. With a 3% margin of error, that doesn't look great. A poll a month earlier by the same group found only 43% support for the recall.
Frighteningly, this poll also finds support growing for conservative talk radio personality Larry Elder to replace Newsom. FYI, Elder, who is Black, rejects most arguments about racism still impacting Americans, denounces critical race theory, and DOESN'T BELIEVE IN THE MINIMUM WAGE. Elder now has 23% saying they'd vote for him in the recall, with John Cox polling at the same level as Caitlyn Jenner, each with just 7%.
Democratic strategist Steven Maviglio tells ABC News that the pandemic surge coming right now, as we have less than six weeks until the special election and less than two weeks before mail-in ballots go out, is bad for Newsom.
"The Delta variant has thrown the whole recall up in the air for the Governor," Maviglio says. "He was hoping this would be behind him and now it's right in front of him and it's on the mind of every voter, every voter with kids, every business person."
Newsom has yet to issue any statewide mandates, even as Los Angeles and much of the Bay Area have now reinstituted mask mandates for indoor public spaces, and as the statewide number of new COVID cases has spiked to levels not seen since winter. So far, Newsom has only reiterated the talking point that vaccination is the best defense, and that this wouldn't be happening if everyone had rushed to be vaccinated in the spring.
This all puts Newsom in an awkward space, having been bullish about reopening the state on June 15, only to have that strategy give more opportunity for the Delta variant to do its work and infect both the unvaccinated and vaccinated. Having spent much of last year stressing the need to trust in science, Newsom is now having to toe a political line.
As Malviglio tells ABC, "The science is urging more and more caution. So it's sort of a double-edged sword for him in that he entrusted science to make those decisions and now those decisions might hurt him politically."
Newsom maintains fairly strong support among Democrats statewide, and the more people see this recall as a waste of time and, the more people might be motivated to vote "no." But Malviglio says it's going to come down to "simple math," with the "no" campaign needing 20% more Democrats to turn out and/or mail in a ballot than the "yes" campaign has in terms of Republicans and anti-Newsom independents.
To be sure, this recall wouldn't be happening without the pandemic, and voters in states all over the country are pissed at their governors for a multitude of reasons, most of which come down to emotions — people are annoyed by lockdowns and scared of what comes next, and really none of this is Newsom's fault. It's been health officers, and governors who are willing to listen to them and the science, that have really driven all the public health orders so far.
Long story short, if you don't want some crazy, unqualified Republican running California for the next couple of years, VOTE NO.
Related: You've Seen the Elizabeth Warren Ad, Now Wait for Biden, Sanders and Others to Back Newsom In the Recall
Top Image: Gov. Gavin Newsom looks on during a news conference at San Francisco General Hospital on June 10, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)