“I can’t recall,” is usually the answer given by a witness in court when asked a question to which they don’t really want to respond.
But on Tuesday, California voters resoundingly defeated a measure to recall Governor Gavin Newsom by nearly a 2 to 1 margin. Just a couple of months ago, this was too tight to predict: It looked like Newsom could actually lose.
It’s not that Newsom became more likable since July. What happened to turn this around?
- The Delta variant arrived with a vengeance, but California’s high rate of vaccination and prevention policies helped keep deaths and hospitalizations low.
- The leading replacement candidate was a right-wing conservative who promised to eliminate the mask and vaccine mandates that were keeping the surge in check.
- Voters realized the recall process was so convoluted that Newsom could lose with 49.9% of the vote, but the next governor could be chosen with only a fraction of those votes.
- Of the 40+ replacement candidates, none were seen as serious contenders by most of the public.
- The election caught national attention and a whole array of Democratic figures came out to campaign strongly against the recall: Sanders, Warren, Klobuchar, Harris, Obama, Biden, and others.
In the end, most voters just didn’t see a reason to make a change. In fact, the process appears to have strengthened Newsom’s position to run for a second term.
That’s not likely the outcome the recall backers expected, but it’s a lesson those who consider doing something similar in the future would do well to recall before trying this again.
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