“There is no more momentous decision to the health and safety of the people of California than to vote no to this Republican-sponsored recall,” Newsom said Tuesday at a vaccine event in Oakland two weeks before the recall election. He said that “the strongest contrast” is between him and the Republican candidates, who would rather go the route from Texas and Florida, states with lax protocols and, as a result, lower vaccination rates and higher virus cases.
The governor was beaten in November for attending a high-end French laundry dinner with lobbyist friends despite preventing residents from attending social gatherings, a terrifying decision widely viewed as a catalyst for the signature drive who qualified the recall. Things only got worse in the months that followed when California had its highest Covid-19 death rate and hospitals were overrun.
However, when the Californians were vaccinated this spring and infections decreased, Newsom shifted its focus to reopening the state and its efforts to spend a budget on homelessness, economic controls and education. The governor replaced his regular briefings on Covid-19 cases and vaccination efforts with a celebration at Universal Studios alongside costumed trolls and a big budget rally to celebrate a “California comeback”.
In the final stretch before the September 14 elections, the governor leaned back into his pandemic efforts. Last month, Newsom enacted a universal school mask policy in the lead up to the CDC, enacting some of the toughest vaccine requirements for teachers and healthcare workers in the country. Meanwhile, all of the top Republican candidates swear that if they are elected, they will revoke those seats.
As fears of the Delta variant mount and elections coincide with precarious reopenings of schools, the Democratic governor sees an opportunity in drawing a blatant and ominous line between himself and his challengers: if he is ousted, the virus will get worse, not better.
“What is at stake in the September 14 recall? It’s a matter of life and death, ”says a new ad against the recall, criticized top GOP candidate Larry Elder for taking a “radically different” approach to vaccines than Newsom and for spreading “deadly conspiracy theories” about the virus. Newsom’s team quickly circulated a CNN interview this week in which Elder suggested children should not be vaccinated and downplayed their risk of infection.
Election season news may seem counter-intuitive as anger over the pandemic lockdown helped enable the recall. But California Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans, which means Newsom only has to give up its base to survive.
Sean Gailmard, a professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley and a keen observer of the recall, noticed a shift in Newsom’s news since May as he rode roller coasters, handing out checks to vaccinated people like a game show host, and California’s comeback after a stormy winter Curfews and orders for stay at home.
The mood is more solemn now, and luckily for Newsom, the focus isn’t on a California issue.
“A good messaging strategy would be to highlight the main problem of the day while no one can tell you caused it, and that is the reality we are in with Delta. Everyone can see it is raging across the country and it’s worse in many places, “said Gailmard.” He doesn’t talk about fires or housing developments or remind people that the conditions here are sometimes difficult. The only message is: I am the only choice for voters capable of doing a reasonably good job. “
The public health threat and the threat of firing Newsom were undeniably intertwined from the start when a judge gave advocates of pandemic restriction recalls more time to collect signatures.
Polls show that slightly more voters are willing to reject the recall than ousting Newsom, but an even larger proportion of Californians support the governor’s approach to pandemic restrictions. A majority of the likely voters said the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies last month that Newsom did an excellent or great job on the pandemic, while CBS News 60-40 approval found for Newsom’s handling of outbreaks.
Given that strength, the Newsom team in deep blue California likely sees pandemic messaging as a winning approach.
“What voters have on their mind right now is that they don’t want California to become Florida or Texas. They don’t want a governor who allows anti-Vaxxers to put everyone else at risk,” said Nathan Click, spokesman for Newsom- Campaign . “It has become the subject of the recall because, for voters, it is the issue in life in general.
While Newsom has advocated Covid precautions, it has not reverted to some of the more aggressive orders of the past that previously voiced criticism of authoritative handover and general public dismay at closed businesses. Instead, cities and counties have made progress with mask mandates alone.
In early July, Newsom dodged questions about a possible return to a nationwide mask mandate. By the end of the month, his public health team had recommended that all residents, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks again in indoor public spaces in areas with high levels of Covid-19 transmission, as instructed by the CDC. That just stops at a real mandate like that implemented by Washington Governor Jay Inslee.
“The tone difference is driven in large part by a difference in current politics. Now there’s a vaccine for Newsom to warn about how evil Republicans will endanger the state, but it doesn’t. I don’t have to propose closings anymore, “said Dan Schnur, a former Republican strategist and state campaign financier who now teaches politics at several California universities.” He takes a hard line on masks and vaccine mandates, but he knows the majority of those Public agrees with him in these measures. “