Newsom’s Anti-Trump Recall Strategy Offers Republicans a Warning for 2022

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The California Democrats were able to nationalize the vote—thanks to an avalanche of wealth, party discipline, and above all, an easily monstrous opponent.

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San Leandro, Calif. – California introduced its divinity. “The future comes first here,” says Governor Gavin Newsom, calling his state “America’s coming-of-age charm.”


While vehemently backing attempts to recall him from office, Mr Newsom clarified that California’s crucial role in determining tomorrow’s politics was not as important as another, bigger factor in Tuesday’s results: Today’s Tribal Politics.

The first-time Democratic governor would remain in office because, in a deeply liberal state, he effectively nationalized the recall effort as a Republican plot, sending a flame-throwing radio to red the opposition’s Trump-like face. Hosted to polarizing with color. and blue lines.

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Mr Newsom’s success was not because of what sets California apart, but because of how it is everywhere: he dominated California’s heavily populated Democratic cities, the key to victory in a state where his party Republicans have more than five million voters.

“Gavin may have been on a high wire, but he was wearing a big, blue protective shield,” said Mike Murphy, a California-based Republican strategist.

The recall offers at least one lesson to Democrats in Washington ahead of next year’s midterm elections: The party’s pre-existing blue-and-purple-state strategy of portraying Republicans as Trump-loving extremists is still in the former president’s office. outside may prove effective. , at least when the strategy is executed with relentless discipline, an avalanche of money and an opponent who plays to type.

“You either have Gavin Newsom as your governor or you’ll get Donald Trump,” President Biden said at an election eve rally in Long Beach, clarifying that Newsom and his allies have been on the Republican front for weeks. What was suggesting about—runner, longtime radio host Larry Elder.

By the time Mr Biden arrived in California, Mr Newsom was in good shape. Yet in the days leading up to the recall, he was warning Democrats about the right-wing threat that he would face nationwide elections next November.

“Join, get up, this thing is coming,” he said in an interview, calling Mr Elder “a national spokesperson for an extreme agenda”.

California, which had George W. The Republicans haven’t elected a governor since the Bush administration is hardly the top area of ​​contention in next year’s midterm. Yet for Republicans to be optimistic about Biden’s falling approval rating and his 2022 prospects, the failed recall is a less ominous sign than a cautionary reminder of what happens when they put forward candidates who are in the opposition. are easy prey for.

The last time Democrats controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress, in 2010, Republicans made sweeping gains but fell short of reclaiming the Senate because they nominated a handful of candidates so flawed that they were the best. managed to lose in one of the mid-term elections. GOP in Modern History.

That is to say, primaries matter—and if Republicans are to recapture the Senate next year, party officials say, they will do so by upping candidates who have emerged as the 27-year veteran of right-wing radio. Hua Opponents do not come with research files..

“Larry Elder saved his life on this one,” said Rob Stutzman, a Republican strategist in Sacramento, of the Democrats. “There wasn’t much excitement for life in California until this race had the context of the general election. But when you have a perfectly accurate caricature of a MAGA candidate, you can freak out your voters.”

Gray Davis, a recalled Democratic former California governor back in 2003, put it more deeply: “That was a gift from God,” he said of Mr. Elder. “He ran his entire campaign as if the voters were conservative Republicans.”

Hungry for some good news after a bleak month, Democrats will nonetheless rejoice over Mr Newsom’s clear victory. After all, Mr. Biden himself knows all too well from his experience as vice president in 2010 – when his party, Senator Edward M. The Massachusetts Senate seat vacated by Kennedy’s death was lost—not even the safest-looking race considered in the special election.

In addition, Mr. Newsom’s success politically reaffirms the president’s decision to impose a mandate on businesses to require a COVID-19 vaccine. The governor has aggressively campaigned on his own vaccine requirements and rebuked Mr Elder for vowing to reverse them.

In fact, before Biden announced that policy on Thursday, Newsom’s lieutenants believed he was leading the way for other Democrats, including the president. “We’re doing what the White House needs to do, which is more militant on vaccines,” Sean Clegg, one of the governor’s top advisers, said in an interview last week.

Historically, much of California’s political tendencies have been on the right.

From Ronald Reagan’s first election as governor, indicating a response to the 1960s, until the property-tax rebellion of 1970, the state was a conservative petri dish, foreshadowing Reagan’s national success in the 1980s.

Even in recent years, as California turned to the left, it was possible to discern a Republican future from Governor Pete Wilson’s hard line on illegal immigration in the 1990s and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s potent cocktail of celebrity, populism and pride in the 2000s. .

Earlier this summer, it appeared that, once again, California might be bucking the national trends. Burdened by rising crime, homelessness and Covid fatigue, Mr Newsom was seen as in danger of being recalled in the elections.

His challenge, however, was not a tidal wave of opposition, but democratic apathy.

That began to change when Mr Newsom lashed out at his Republican opponents and supporters of a four-to-one recall on television over the summer. After Mr. Elder emerged and took his place, voter sentiment eroded even more rapidly, turning the contest from a referendum on Mr. Newsom into a more traditional Republican-versus-Democrat election.

Signs and handbills on every Democratic campaign, and even ballots that were sent to registered California voters, led to the vote being dubbed a “Republican recall,” flashing a red R over the practice.

“We’ve defined it as the Republican recall, which it is,” California Democratic Chairman Rusty Hicks claimed at a rally near Oakland on September 8, shortly before Mr Newsom and Vice President Kamala Harris took the stage.

A rare convergence of interests between Democrats and Republicans ultimately favors Mr Newsom: those more thrilled to elevate the profile of Mr Elder, a black conservative who delights in puncturing liberal zealots, among the governor’s staff. were paid members.

According to liberal media watchdog group Media Matters, Mr Elder appeared on Fox News 52 times in prime time this year. No other Republican candidate appeared more than eight times.

While that performance helped Mr. Elder become the most popular choice, it served to undermine the cause of Mr. Newsom’s removal from office, by ensuring that the contest would feel like a general election like the last, and only until today. , Successful California Governor Recall.

In 2003, Mr. Schwarzenegger was better known for his Hollywood credits than his politics. He also focused on a specific local issue, California’s tax on automobiles, which kept the race focused on state rather than federal policies. And the incumbent, Mr Davis, was far more unpopular than Mr Newsom.

California was still a separate state back then which reflects how politically polarized it has become. In 2000, Mr. Bush lost California by about 11 percentage points, while still taking Republican redoubts such as Orange and San Diego counties. Last year, Mr Trump was defeated in the state by nearly 30 points and the same two counties lost decisively.

“There is no safe landing place for moderates today, so even if you’re mad at Gavin, the alternative is Ron DeSantis,” said Mr. Murphy, pointing to the Trumpian Florida governor.

Indeed, what delighted conservatives about Mr Elder – his right-wing rhetoric – made him a perfect foil for Mr Newsom.

Mr Newsom turned his stump speech into a chapter-and-verse recitation of the biggest hits on Mr Elder: comments he decried women, downplayed climate change and questioned the need for a minimum wage. Joined in a parade of brand-name National Democrats who arrived in California equipped with anti-Elder talking points, the governor spent more time warning a Republican about taking office than defending his record.

He also called on an audience of red states and their leaders, Republicans’ handling of Covid, voting restrictions and, in the final days of the campaign, Texas’s restrictive new abortion law.

While House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the most prominent California Republican, kept his distance from the recall, Newsom was regularly joined by Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation, who linked the recall to Mr Trump’s refusal to admit defeat. January 6 Attack on the Capitol.

“A different type of rebellion in California,” Representative Karen Bass put it at a rally in Los Angeles.

Mr. Elder, for his part, happily ran as the provocateur, overshadowing more moderate GOP hopefuls like former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulkner. He vowed to end the vaccine mandate for state employees on swearing-in day, which chanted “Larry, Larry!” inspired mantras. from the conservative crowd but alienated the state’s pro-vaccine majority.

His advisers said Mr Newsom’s poll showed him ahead of 69-28 among Californians who said he had been vaccinated, a significant advantage in a state where nearly seven in 10 adults have received their shots. .

The prospect that Elder-style figures could win primaries in more competitive states alarmed many establishment-aligned Republicans as they assess the 2022 scenario.

Candidates too closely linked to Mr. Trump, or laden with personal belongings, or both, could undermine the party’s prospects in states such as Georgia, Arizona, Missouri and Pennsylvania that are crucial to determining control of the Senate. Will be proved.

Similarly, Republicans could struggle in the battlefield governor races in Ohio, Georgia and Arizona if far-right candidates prevail in the primaries for Mr. Trump’s blessing.

However, in some states, the party’s Trump-era brand is as toxic as…

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