Don't have time to read the whole post? Jump to a specific recall election scenario:
- Newsom defeats the election by a lot.
- Newsom survives — but by a small margin.
- Newsom is removed from office.
For nearly 25 years, Gov. Gavin Newsom rose through the ranks of California politics without ever losing an election, buoyed by connections to powerful San Francisco Democrats and a willingness to take risks — like sanctioning marriage equality — that put him at the vanguard of his party.
Then came the coronavirus pandemic.
The governor’s attention-grabbing style — implementing the nation’s first stay-at-home order in March 2020, then dining at an exclusive wine country restaurant as he told people to stay home to avoid a winter surge — rubbed enough Californians the wrong way that 1.7 million voters launched the second gubernatorial recall in state history.
To fight back, the Democratic leader of one of the nation’s bluest states returned to what helped him succeed in the early days: connections to fellow Democrats and well-calculated policy risks — this time, to fight COVID-19.
At a campaign rally in Long Beach on Monday night, President Joe Biden heaped praise on Newsom’s management of the pandemic. Newsom this summer made California the first state in the nation to require vaccines for health care workers and state employees.
“Gavin Newsom has had the courage to lead, to stand up for science,” Biden said. “He’s been one of the leading governors in the nation protecting people and vaccinating his state.”
Echoing Newsom’s campaign message framing the GOP-led recall as an act of “Trumpism,” Biden described the leading Republican candidate — talk radio host Larry Elder — as “the clone of Donald Trump.”
“Can you imagine him being governor of this state? You can’t let that happen,” said Biden, who beat Trump in California last year by 30 points.
Hosting the president the day before the election is just one sign of how much the power of incumbency has boosted Newsom in this race. With no legal cap on his fundraising against the recall, Newsom raised five times as much as all his opponents combined.
Newsom's team managed to haul $5.5 million from the Democratic Governors Association, $3 million from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and more than $7.6 million from public employee unions. He ran ads featuring nationally known Democrats including former President Barack Obama and U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
And the governor used the trappings of his office in unusual, attention-grabbing ways. He blasted critics “promoting partisan political power grabs” during a State of the State speech on the field of Dodger Stadium that served as an unofficial campaign kickoff. He used an enormous $76 billion state budget surplus to address pandemic-induced hardships, sending $600 stimulus payments to most Californians — checks that landed just before the election.