GOP effort to oust California's Democratic governor fails spectacularly

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Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom appears on track to match his margin of victory in 2018, if not beat it.

California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom resoundingly beat back a GOP effort to oust him from office in the middle of his first term, defeating the recall by a landslide, double-digit margin.

With more than two-thirds of the vote counted, Newsom defeated the recall 64.2% to 35.8%. While experts say the margin could shrink a few points as late-arriving mail-in ballots come in, it appears Newsom will do as well or possibly better than the 61.9% he garnered in his 2018 victory, when he was first elected to office.

And according to data compiled by the Washington Post, the GOP lost the gubernatorial recall by a historically large margin. It shows that Republicans — who began an effort to recall Newsom in early 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic started — failed to gain traction in their effort.

Newsom was able to motivate the Democratic base by painting the leading GOP candidate, right-wing radio host Larry Elder, as a Donald Trump 2.0 who would set back the state's effort to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elder opposed mask and vaccine mandates, instead framing wearing masks and getting vaccinated as personal choices. He also pushed misleading and unscientific claims about vaccination and masks that ran counter to public health officials' guidance. He took those positions even as polling showed majorities of Americans support mask requirements and vaccine mandates.

Newsom played up Elder's positions in the final days of the race, as did President Joe Biden, who campaigned alongside Newsom the day before voting in the contest ended.

"Voting 'no' will be protecting California from Trump Republicans trying to block us from beating this pandemic," Biden said Monday night, Politico reported. (Based on California's recall rules. voting "no" meant voters wanted to keep Newsom in office.)

"We don't need politics in this battle against Covid," Biden added. "We need science. We need courage. We need leadership. We need Gavin Newsom."

And in remarks after he was declared the winner, Newsom said that his win was a win for COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

"'No' is not the only thing that was expressed to night," Newsom said. "I want to focus on what we said 'yes' to as a state. We said 'yes' to science. We said 'yes' to vaccines. We said 'yes' to ending this pandemic."

Republicans had seemingly conceded the race even before voting ended, reverting to pushing lies about voter fraud and saying that they were prepared to sue to overturn the results.

Elder even preemptively created a website for his supporters to report fraud and demand an investigation into his loss.

Newsom's ability to motivate Democratic voters with warnings about the dangers of a Trump-esque Republican governor could be a roadmap for Democrats in the 2022 midterms.

Political analysts already said that Trump could be a boon for Democrats next year, possibly helping them overcome the trend of the party in the White House losing seats in Congress in the first midterm.

Roll Call columnist Nathan Gonzales said Trump could be "lighter fluid on Democratic donors and voters in the midterms."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.