During the recent weekend, California Governor Gavin Newsom changed his focus on the recall election at campaign stops in San Francisco and East Los Angeles, moving from being just against the recall, to going after current recall candidate front runner Larry Elder.
Until recently, Newsom largely focused on just defeating the recall while only occasionally going after previous front runner candidates such as former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and 2018 GOP gubernatorial nominee John Cox. But with polls now showing the recall being within the margin of error of succeeding, talk show host Larry Elder pulling ahead of all other candidates by double digits in terms of likely voters, and Governor Newsom’s speeches against the recall leading to bouts of shouting in recent weeks, Newsom took a new approach this weekend.
In San Francisco on Friday, Newsom’s usual speech telling people to vote “no” on the recall election was intertwined with warnings about Larry Elder, specifically citing his strong conservative stance on many state issues, and mentioning him along with former President Donald Trump. While Newsom did start to target Elder more directly earlier this month in limited political settings, Newsom now opening going after Elder in public campaign speeches marked a new change in his campaign.
“He’s to the right of Donald Trump. To the right of Donald Trump,” said Newsom of Elder in San Francisco. “That’s what’s at stake in this election and don’t think for a second you can’t do damage in that role. Think about the judges he could appoint. Who would he have appointed to replace Kamala Harris in the U.S. Senate? How would that impact the trajectory of this country. What would this mean for the future of the Democratic party in our efforts to keep the House of Representatives?”
“Just vote no. You don’t even have to touch the other part. The other part is irrelevant. Don’t even touch it. Simple no. This is about the easiest ballot you ever had to fill out. Just vote no. No on the recall.”
Newsom’s new two pronged attack in speeches
In a speech in East Los Angeles the next day, Newsom attempted to tie in Elder to Donald Trump once again and warned Latino voters in the audience, the majority of whom are for the recall, what an Elder Governorship would mean to them.
“Though we defeated Trump, we didn’t defeat Trumpism. Trumpism is still alive and well, even here in the state of California,” noted Newsom on Saturday. “If you don’t believe me, just consider the likely person to enter an oath of office, to enter in the governor’s office in just a matter of weeks if we don’t reject this recall.”
“Don’t think for a second that this recall is not about all of you. It’s about each and every one of us and the values we hold dear.”
“We turn out our base, we’re going to win, unquestionably. It’s not a persuasion campaign. People are locked in. But the profound consequences, particularly the leading candidate on the other side, Larry Elder, people just need to take a close look. Elder is out there promoting the same kind of bigotry and hate as former President Donald Trump.”
“Democrats need to wake up to what’s at stake, and we made it easy. It’s all mail-in ballot. Simple question: ‘Should he be recalled?’ ‘No.’ Send it back. Don’t even consider the second question with those 46 candidates.”
After Newsom ended, a chant of “No!” sprung up among the crowd, underscoring Newsom’s two-pronged new message of voting no and personally going after Elder.
While all the other top recall candidates have personally gone after Newsom as well, the Elder campaign has been focusing more and more on the outcomes of Newsom’s policies. During the weekend at an event in San Jose, Elder linked Newsom’s shutdown policies during the pandemic with the loss of businesses in California.
“This man that I’m going to defeat on September 14, he shut down the state in the most severe way than any of the other 49 governors have,” said Elder this weekend. “When I get elected, assuming there are still face mask mandates and vaccine mandates, they will be repealed right away and then I’ll break for breakfast. I know how difficult it is to run a business. Many of them never succeed. Those who do succeed, often run on very thin profit margins, often from payroll to payroll. A third of all small businesses in California are now gone forever because Newsom ignored science.”
The changing nature of the recall election
Political experts have noted that the recent shifts in rhetoric and speeches is largely due to the changing nature of the race, with the resurgence of COVID-19 in California being a major focal point.
“Newsom knows that if he put back in state-level mandates or even lockdowns it’s game over for him,” former lobbyist Harry Schultz told the Globe Monday. “Elder and the others know it too, because anger over the lockdowns helped bring in a lot of recall petition signers in late 2020 and early 2021 before the deadline. Newsom is worried that will happen again while the recall candidates would welcome Newsom making such a move as he would be shooting himself in the foot.”
“Newsom also knows who his main challenger is now. There’s still the recall, but right now Elder is big. Even if he manages to squeak by the recall this year, Elder will have a lot of campaign machinery in place for 2022. Plus, if he gets the majority of recall votes, that’s a hard figure to put up against Newsom or another Democratic contender. Again, strategists have been saying this for months, but the Democrats will lose no matter what happens on September 14th. It’s just a matter of by how much. Best case scenario they beat the recall and hope the GOP doesn’t keep the momentum going through next year while also worrying about a rebounding GOP in California. Worst case, Elder or somebody gets in, Newsom’s political career is finished, and the victory helps the GOP both statewide and nationwide.”
“Any candidate can be spun positively. If it’s Cox , you get a proven businessman to help reinvigorate California economically. If it’s Faulconer, it’s a proven lawmaker that shows the GOP likes having more experienced people in there. If it’s Kiley, you praise how a young guy got in there – Paffrath too to a lesser extent since he is technically a Democrat. For Elder though, that’s the scary one. Not only is he leading, but he would be the first black Governor in California history and the only black Governor in the country. A Republican one at that. That’s why he scares the Democrats the most. The recall was still kind of off radar until he came in too. This is why Newsom really started going after him more during the weekend. He’s a big danger to them. And Elder knows it.”
Newsom is expected to continue his new two-pronged attack of the recall and Elder for the foreseeable future.
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