California recall vote offers a test of Biden’s political clout
WASHINGTON –President Joe Biden has been beset by public health, military and climate crises over the past month. There’s not much time left for a potential political disaster to brew for his party in California.
With a week to spare, the White House plunges into the California governor’s recall election, coming to the aid of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom with visits from Vice President Kamala Harris and then Biden himself to try to ” alleviate lingering concerns about Democratic participation in the unusual September. vote.
Harris will campaign in the state with Newsom on Wednesday after a previously scheduled visit was canceled due to the chaos surrounding the withdrawal from Afghanistan. And Biden himself is expected to visit the state early next week, ahead of Tuesday’s election.
For Biden, this is a chance to show his political muscle in a state where he and Harris remain popular. The result will also provide a test of Biden’s influence after a difficult August and ahead of the midterms of 2022, when control of Congress and more than half of the country’s governors are up for grabs.
Harris and Biden hope to help bolster Newsom’s chances of surviving an unpredictable recall effort in a state that remains critical to advancing Biden’s agenda at state and national levels.
“It’s just too big a state to lose an election,” said Joel Benenson, a former campaign pollster for President Barack Obama. “You have more to risk by not showing up than by showing up.”
Benenson noted that beyond the political implications for the Democratic Party of losing a governor’s seat, the outcome of the recall could have an effect on the composition of the Senate, if the seat of Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein goes. opens, leaving his replacement appointed by the governor.
While reliable polls have been scarce in the race, a recent Public Policy Institute of California poll, conducted in late August, showed voters would be more likely to vote no than yes on Newsom’s removal, 58% to 39% .
Of all the likely voters, whether or not they keep Newsom, about half say they don’t have a preference for a replacement candidate or don’t know their preference.
With the exception of the polls, Newsom’s main concern remains the engagement of Democratic base voters and the awareness that they must run in an unusually scheduled election, according to Kyle Kondick, a non-partisan political analyst at the University of Virginia.
“The main problem for Newsom is making sure the Democratic participation is strong enough to save him,” Kondick said.
“One way to do that is to bring in high profile surrogates who will get great media coverage and help spread the word that the recall is underway. And from a Democratic point of view, it’s hard to find two better people than Vice President Kamala Harris, herself from California, and, of course, the President.
Biden has previously campaigned for Virginia Democratic candidate for governor Terry McAuliffe, who is due for election in November. In Ohio’s 11th Congressional District Democratic primary for a special House election in November, winner Shontel Brown described opponent Nina Turner as anti-Biden to take a surprise victory.
White House officials say they expect Biden and Harris to maintain a strong campaign schedule when the midterm elections heat up next year.
But the result of the California governor’s recall will offer a first test of whether Biden maintains his political might after a difficult August, in which his numbers in the national polls were hit after the rocky withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan and the rising rates of COVID-19 grabbed the headlines.
It’s hard to overstate Biden’s popularity in California – he won the state with nearly 64% of the vote in 2020. And according to the PPIC poll, 58% of Californians approve of Biden’s post as president. Harris, meanwhile, remains one of California’s most prominent Democrats, where she still has a home.
But Biden and Harris have come under fire from some within the Progressive Democratic base, a subset of the party that also remains somewhat disappointed with Newsom. And even if Newsom wins, a close race could signal trouble for Biden midway through next year.
Every voter in California has already received a ballot, and they will have to answer two questions: first, whether they think the governor should be recalled, and second, who should replace him. Voters will choose from a list of 46 replacement candidates – many of whom are unknown, but others with some recognition, including Tory talk show host Larry Elder, who has become the GOP frontrunner. With so many candidates dividing these ballots, if the recall effort is successful, there is a possibility that a candidate will win with 25% or less of the vote.
Republicans sued Newsom over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the state’s economy, with business owners and parents expressing frustration at the enduring restrictions on businesses, mask warrants and school closures. In contrast, Newsom sought to nationalize the recall campaign, tying the effort to restrictive voting laws passed by Republican legislatures and warning during a campaign event last weekend that “we have not defeated the Trumpism ”in 2020.
Aside from a Newsom endorsement in mid-August, the White House largely remained on the sidelines for the first few months. At first, when concerns about Newsom’s fate were a little more pressing, Bill Carrick, a California Democratic strategist and longtime aide to Feinstein, said “there had been a little campaign of whispers” about what some in California Democratic circles saw it as a lack of White House engagement.
“There’s a little game going on, you know you’re not helping enough – because everyone wants help,” he said.
About three weeks ago, Newsom himself sounded the alarm that Democrats “up and down the state have not taken this seriously”, pointing to a “gulf of enthusiasm” between Republicans and the Democrats.
At the time, Newsom said he asked for visits from Harris and Biden, and more engagement from National Democrats – and he got it. Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders, the Independent from Vermont, appeared in anti-recall ads, while Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota campaigned with Newsom over Labor Day weekend .
With Harris and Biden arriving over the next few days, Newsom will have some of the biggest names in the Democratic Party behind him, as well as millions of dollars invested in the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Governors Association participation efforts.
Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster who has done extensive work in California, also noted that the visits would offer Harris and Biden the opportunity to focus after a disastrous August on his infrastructure program and a potential victory in a deep blue state.
“For the president, the ability to be able to participate and help generate a victory for the governor is not a bad decision,” Mellman said. “He’s probably looking forward to the opportunity to get away from hurricanes and floods and everything he’s been faced with for the past 30 days or so.”
AP poll writer Hannah Fingerhut contributed to this report.
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.