Gavin Newsom Recall Primed to Backfire on California Republicans

Gavin Newsom's decision-making is under heightened scrutiny as the California governor faces a recall election later this year.

And while this may be unwelcome focus as the Democratic lawmaker wrangles with COVID-19 in his state, down the line the vote could prove a political boost.

"The impact of the recall on Newsom's vulnerability down the line depends on whether it does end up being close or not," Eric Schickler, professor of political science and co-director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, told Newsweek.

Should the result be tight but in Newsom's favor, his position might look more vulnerable down the line. But a convincing victory could see him bolstered ahead of the 2022 gubernatorial election.

"If he ends up winning by a fairly substantial margin, it may not leave much of a mark—and could even take some out of the wind of 2022 challengers," Schickler said.

Henry Brady, professor of political science and public policy at University of California, Berkeley, told Newsweek he thinks the recall is a problem for Newsom, and could harm potential aspirations for national office, but could potentially have benefits down the line.

Brady said he thinks defeat for Newsom in the recall is unlikely, adding: "There is even a chance that this vote may go so heavily in Newsom's favor that it will provide him with support and momentum."

Steven Maviglio, a Democratic political consultant based in Sacramento, California, similarly told Newsweek he thinks if Newsom survives the recall he is then in a strong position for 2022.

"It's long odds for a Republican to get elected," he said. "This [the recall] is their shot."

According to polling, Newsom would survive the recall if the vote were held now.

One of the latest surveys, carried out by the Public Policy Institute of California, showed 56 percent of likely voters in California would vote no on recalling Newsom. Comparatively, 40 percent said they would vote to do so. The polling posed this question to 1,174 likely voters from March 14 to 23.

California GOP chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson told Newsweek the state party was focused on the push to oust Newsom through a recall.

"The only long-term impact we're concerned about is the impact of Gavin Newsom's incompetent governing on our state," Patterson said.

"Under his failed leadership, businesses have been forced to close, unemployment has skyrocketed, and students have lost a full year of in-person learning. While a majority of voters have said it's time for someone new, the California Republican Party is focused on getting Californians to vote yes on question one and officially recalling the worst governor in California history. Unfortunately for Newsom, we have a 2.1 million voter head start."

In regard to the point of voters wanting someone new, an Emerson College Poll for Nexstar Media Group asked 1,045 registered voters from March 12 to 14: "Regardless of the recall effort, would you vote to re-elect Governor Newsom in 2022, or do you think it is time for someone new?"

The majority, 58.3 percent said it was time for someone new.

However, in the same polling more voters said they would vote to keep Newsom in a recall vote than to recall—with 42 percent to 38 percent. The polling has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

In comments shared with Newsweek, Randy Economy, a senior advisor and spokesperson for the Recall Gavin 2020 campaign, said: "Gavin Newsom needs to worry about the 40 million Californians whom he has held hostage this past year under house arrest while he lived his privileged life on his own terms without restrictions.

"We highly doubt anyone in America will ever take Newsom serious when it comes to being elected to any office in the future."

The recall campaign has said it has garnered more than 2 million signatures.

If at least 1,495,709 are verified by April 29, then this will prompt a recall vote.

Newsom conceded in March that such a vote is likely.

"Well, the reality is it looks like it's going on the ballot, and so we're ready to go," he said at a news conference last month. "We will fight it. We will defeat it."

He has vowed to fight what he has branded a "Republican recall," tweeting in March: "I won't be distracted by this partisan, Republican recall—but I will fight it.

"There is too much at stake."

He has received backing from prominent Democratic lawmakers, including Vice President Kamala Harris.

The recall campaign has taken issue with a number of Newsom's stances, including questioning COVID-19 lockdowns.

Newsom came under fire last year after attending a birthday dinner he conceded breached the "spirit" of the lockdown rules he had set.

Newsom has detailed his aim for California to be fully re-open by June 15. He has denied the recall push against him has influenced his decision on this matter.

"Absolutely not," Newsom told CBS' This Morning when this was put to him. "In fact, quite the contrary. We're just focused on the data, disease prevalence. I'm focused on what's actually happening on the ground."

Newsweek has contacted Newsom's office for a latest comment on the recall and its potential long-term political impact.

gavin newsom at vaccination clinic
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference after touring the vaccination clinic at City College of San Francisco on April 06, 2021 in San Francisco, California. He is facing the prospect of a recall vote later in 2021. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images