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California Gov. Gavin Newsom decisively overcame a recall effort to remove him from office on Tuesday in a victory some analysts say could lead to political prospects on the national stage.
Mike Murphy, co-director of the USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future and a Republican strategist for former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s gubernatorial campaign, told the Washington Examiner on Wednesday that Newsom “was always going to win.”
“It’s California,” Murphy said. “He did get in some trouble, but California is blue enough to bail him out.”
Newsom faces a regular reelection cycle next year, a race Murphy said he already has “in the bag.”
Beyond that, Murphy said the Democratic Party is “drunk on identity politics” and that Newsom would be wise to “reset” his agenda to include items that would appeal to a national audience if he aspires to run for president in 2024 (if President Joe Biden chooses not to seek reelection) or 2028.
"Democrats will be desperate for a new fresh face," Murphy said, adding that Newsom "could be the right guy in the right place."
Should Newsom have presidential ambitions, it could set him up for a rivalry with longtime ally Vice President Kamala Harris, also seen as a likely presidential candidate in future cycles. Harris campaigned for Newsom ahead of Tuesday's recall.
Murphy said there would be a path for Newsom as a Senate candidate should California's senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, 88, decide to retire.
“Gavin makes a good first impression,” Murphy said. “He could become the Democratic ‘it’ guy if he plays his cards right over the next fifteen months.”
Newsom’s strategy of highlighting national issues in the recall race led Democrats including President Joe Biden to call the outcome a victory for their agenda.
Biden offered his congratulations to Newsom in a statement.
“This vote is a resounding win for the approach that he and I share to beating the pandemic: strong vaccine requirements, strong steps to reopen schools safely, and strong plans to distribute real medicines, not fake treatments, to help those who get sick,” Biden said. “The fact that voters in both traditionally Democratic and traditionally Republican parts of the state rejected the recall shows that Americans are unifying behind taking these steps to get the pandemic behind us.”
A petition to recall Newsom gained traction as its deadline was extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Talk radio host Larry Elder emerged as the most prominent Republican challenger to Newsom, while a much-discussed campaign by reality star Caitlin Jenner gained little support.
Newsom cruised to victory Tuesday, with exit polls suggesting voters sided with the governor on his aggressive response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the campaign, Republicans said Newsom failed to address issues such as cost of living and homelessness and that the governor flouted his own COVID-19 regulations, pointing to his attendance at French Laundry, an elite Napa restaurant, last November without following the state-issued protocols for combating the virus.
Governors facing recall elections is not a common phenomenon in U.S. history, although efforts have slightly increased in recent years. According to the Eagleton Center on the American Governor at Rutgers University, Newsom was just the fourth governor in U.S. history to face a recall election, and three of the four recall efforts have taken place within the last two decades. In 1921, North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier became the first governor to be recalled. Frazier was later elected to the U.S. Senate.
The only other governor in U.S. history to be successfully recalled was California’s Gray Davis in 2003. The Democrat was replaced by Schwarzenegger, an actor, who held the office from 2003 to 2011. California has not elected a Republican governor since Schwarzenegger.
Scott Walker defeated a recall effort in Wisconsin in 2012 and was reelected as governor of the Badger State in 2014. He unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for president in 2016.
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Original Author: Kate Scanlon
Original Location: After victory in recall effort, what's next for Gavin Newsom?