Over the past few days many in the media have begun a Gov. Gavin Newsom victory lap, secure that the new math shows he will survive the recall effort against him.
Not so fast. While Newsom has seen significant gain in the polls, this special election comes with more caveats than a prenup.
Over at the website 538 where data are king, they think Newsom is likely to prevail, but also have this to say, "This is a particularly challenging race to poll accurately because it’s hard to estimate who’s likely to vote." Adding "In other words, don’t be surprised if there’s a larger-than-usual polling error.
There are a lot of factors here, it’s a strangely timed special election, it’s mostly done with mail in voting, and there could be a natural enthusiasm advantage for the pro recall side, given that they were the ones who initiated the election in the first place. All of these wildcards have the potential to upset polling.
Newsom and his backers have been touting strong mail in numbers from Democrats across the state. But the question is which Democrats?
Plenty of Democrats signed the petition to bring about this recall election. In fact the most vigorous COVID restrictions, which were the animating force behind the recall, exist in blue urban areas, not red rural ones.
These disaffected Democrats are a key voting block on Tuesday. The recall can’t succeed without a significant number of them voting yes.
That is why Newsom and his media allies have focused on his Republican challenger radio talk show host Larry Elder. They have slandered him as a White supremacist, painted him as a radical and tried to redirect the race away from the governor’s record in office.
Newsom is basically saying to these Democrats, "I might suck, but if I lose it’s going to be a Trumpian, racist, Republican apocalypse in the Golden State." That sentiment may be enough to sway voters. It certainly seems to have moved the polls. But is that equating to mail in ballots? That nobody knows.
From the beginning the Newsom recall effort was a long shot. Few thought that it would even get this far. When an underdog is playing an overwhelming favorite the goal is generally to stay in it until late in the game. To give yourself a chance to win.
The forces behind the recall effort have done that here. The odds are in Newsom’s favor, they have been the whole time but Democrats know Tuesday’s result is not in the bag. That's why Newsom has so many high profile surrogates campaigning for him.
Whatever the outcome on Tuesday, that this election is happening at all is a major repudiation of Newsom. He was a poster child of government overreach with his lockdown measures, an avatar of that failed policy who still clings to it as cities like San Francisco die on the vine.
To those who ask why aren’t Americans fighting back against COVID restrictions? They are, this is what that looks like. And come Tuesday, they still might win.