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Polls show California Gov. Gavin Newsom is in a dogfight with voting underway in the Sept. 14 special election to recall the first-term Democrat.
With ballots hitting mailboxes this week, the FiveThirtyEight average of recent surveys of California voters shows support for recalling Newsom at 47.6%, trailing opposition by just 1.2 percentage points. If backing for the governor’s removal inches up to 50% plus 1 of the voters who participate in next month’s contest, his tenure will be cut short roughly one year before he is due to stand for reelection.
Some Democratic operatives are skeptical Newsom’s position is as precarious as the polling suggests.
“This is a Hail Mary pass at best,” said Robb Korinke, a Democratic strategist with GrassrootsLab, a political consulting firm in California. “It’s the half-court shot of California politics.”
The ballot consists of two questions: Should Newsom be recalled? Who among the candidates running should replace him?
Democrats enjoy a 22.4-point advantage over Republicans among registered California voters. With former President Donald Trump’s deep unpopularity in the state, Democratic strategists like Korinke insist Newsom’s ouster would require a perfect storm of historic GOP overperformance at the polls, an epic collapse of Democratic participation, and unrealistically high levels of Democratic defections on the all-important recall question.
Some Republican insiders believe such an outcome, however unlikely, is on the verge of unfolding.
“Our polling shows Republicans to be highly motivated and Democrats to be very uninterested,” said David Gilliard, a Republican strategist in Sacramento and key organizer of the petition to place the recall election on the ballot. “The biggest issues against Newsom are not COVID related. Crime, homeless, and gas prices/cost of living dominate.”
Gillard said his polling shows more than 50% of Latinos and voters unaffiliated with a political party are backing the recall, saying Newsom has failed to shore up support for preserving his administration despite outspending his opposition by leaps and bounds.
Conservative talk radio host Larry Elder, who is black, is the Republican leading the horse race, garnering an average of 19.3%, with the rest of the candidates trailing significantly. But the competition to replace Newsom is irrelevant if voters choose to retain the governor — and some veteran Democratic and Republican insiders disagree with the consensus analysis regarding the competitiveness of the recall that has emerged in their parties.
For instance, some Democrats worry there is enough of an enthusiasm gap between Californians who oppose the recall and those in favor, so their party’s registration advantage might not be enough to save Newsom. They also question whether the governor’s campaign is doing enough to ensure high Democratic turnout.
Conversely, some Republicans predict Newsom will survive, an assessment they partly blame on a lackluster field of Republican candidates running to replace the governor.
“I’ve seen two private polls in the last week. Democratic apathy is still there, but I’m yet to see a poll that shows he actually loses,” said Rob Stutzman, a Republican operative who advised former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger during the 2003 recall campaign that led to the ouster of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. “I think Elder as a presumptive replacement will drag on the 'Yes' vote.”
In a political era of polling misfires and in an off-year special election held in the middle of September, an atypical voting month, it’s unclear what survey to believe.
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Original Author: David M. Drucker