Gavin Newsom Looks Poised to Survive California’s Recall Election
© AP Photo / Jeff ChiuFILE — In this July 26, 2021, file photo, Gov. Gavin Newsom appears at a news conference in Oakland, Calif. Supporters of the effort to recall Newsom are asking a court to prohibit him from calling the effort s"Republican recall" in the state's official voter guide. The lawsuit was filed by July 30, 2021, by Orrin Heatlie, the Republican activist who launched the recall effort.
© AP Photo / Jeff Chiu
The recall election has been a wild ride for the incumbent Democrat. What looked like a dead heat as early as a month ago, has quickly become a double-digit lead for Newsom in the polls.
With the recall election official, the political future for California Governor Gavin Newsom looked to be on rocky ground.
The recall election in the Golden State is broken into two sections. The first is a vote to either keep or to remove Newsom, and the second is who should replace him, in the event that 50% or more of voters decide to remove Newsom, with the winning candidate assuming the governorship. While the first choice is a simple yes or no question, the second is far more difficult, with 46 challengers for voters to choose from.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s meta-poll, early polling saw Newsom maintain a healthy double-digit lead in mid-July. However, as the month wore on Newsom’s favorability began to slip with an astonishing turn of events in early August, suggesting that Newsom was in a dead heat to remain California’s governor. From August 4th to 24th, Newsom maintained a slim 0.2 to 1.2 edge in the polls in favor of keeping him in office.
The narrowing of the gap was fueled by one SurveyUSA poll that gave an +11 point edge to removing Newsom from office. As more polls began to roll in the following weeks, especially around the end of the month, Newsom’s lead in the polls began to grow again. He hit double-digits again on September 4th, and, as of September 8th, holds a 12.3 point edge in his favor.
© REUTERS / EVELYN HOCKSTEINU.S. President Joe Biden listens to Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, during a virtual meeting with governors to discuss efforts to strengthen wildfire prevention, preparedness and response efforts to the 2021 wildfire season, at the South Court Auditorium at the White House complex in Washington, U.S., July 30, 2021
U.S. President Joe Biden listens to Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, during a virtual meeting with governors to discuss efforts to strengthen wildfire prevention, preparedness and response efforts to the 2021 wildfire season, at the South Court Auditorium at the White House complex in Washington, U.S., July 30, 2021
© REUTERS / EVELYN HOCKSTEIN
The SurveyUSA poll that spelled doom for Newsom ended up being a false positive. Of the 28 polls used in FiveThirtyEight’s meta-poll, three had Newsom being removed, one had Newsom tied, and the rest saw Newsom as safe.
The two other polls that had more support for Newsom’s removal were by small margins. In a subsequent SurveyUSA poll, conducted from August 26th to 28th, the results came back with a +8 point lead for Newsom to remain in office. In the official results, SurveyUSA pointed to changes in methodology, as well as changed language that they believed led to the outlier poll at the beginning of the month.
California’s recall election of Governor Gavin Newsom is set for September 14th and marks a fifteen-month effort by state Republicans to oust the Democrat.
Back in June of 2020, the petition to oust Newsom was approved, but still needed nearly 1.5 million signatures to trigger the recall election. The petition was given until November 17th, 2020 to collect the necessary signatures but was granted a four-month extension due to the difficulties the COVID-19 pandemic presented. The extension ended up being a significant development for their efforts.
On November 6th, 2020, Gavin Newsom was photographed dining at an upscale French restaurant. The photos revealed that Newsom was inside, maskless, and in clear defiance of his own administration’s covid protocols. The moment catalyzed Republicans who had grown weary of the state’s covid restrictions and propelled the petition to the necessary signatures over the final months of 2020.
With less than a week until California’s recall election, it appears that Gavin Newsom is once again safe. In fact, it’s likely that he was safe the entire time. If it wasn’t for one outlier poll, the idea that Newsom was fighting for his political future never would have materialized. Newsom might not have been politically vulnerable, but no one is impervious to the forces of poor polling.