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Newsom’s Anti-Trump Strategy Worked In the CA Recall. Could It Be A Blueprint for Dem Success in ’22?

Newsom’s Anti-Trump Strategy Worked In the CA Recall. Could It Be A Blueprint for Dem Success in ’22?

By turning back the effort to recall him from office, Gavin Newsom made clear that California’s role in setting the stage for national politics is solid. The first-term Democratic governor will remain in office because, in a deeply liberal state, he effectively nationalized the recall effort as a Republican plot, making a flame-throwing radio host the Trump-like face of the opposition to polarize the electorate along red and blue lines. “The future happens here first,” said Newsom, calling his state “America’s coming attraction.”

Newsom dominated in California’s heavily populated Democratic cities, the key to victory in a state where his party outnumbers Republicans by five million voters. His top opponent, Larry Elder, made a lot of noise that echoed the Trumpian talking points Democratic voters have heard too much and too often. Newsom outperformed Elder even in counties that Trump had won in 2020, showing that the MAGA rhetoric might just finally losing its effect.

Gage Skidmore via Flickr

“You either keep Gavin Newsom as your governor or you’ll get Donald Trump,” President Biden said at an election-eve rally in Long Beach, making explicit what Newsom and his allies had been suggesting for weeks about the Republican front-runner and longtime talk radio host. By the time President Biden arrived in California, Newsom was already well-positioned to remain in office. Yet in the days leading up to the recall, he was warning Democrats of the right-wing threat they would face in elections across the country next November.

But Newsom’s success also politically vindicates the president’s decision to enact a mandate on businesses to require the Covid-19 vaccine. The governor campaigned aggressively on his own vaccine requirements and lashed out against Elder for vowing to overturn them.

The recall offers at least one lesson to Democrats ahead of next year’s midterm elections: The party’s pre-existing blue- and purple-state strategy of portraying Republicans as Trump-loving extremists can still prove effective with Trump out of office and banned from social media, especially when the Former Guy continues to exhibit the same behaviors and tactics to keep his base loyal. For Republicans growing hopeful about their 2022 prospects, the failed recall is a less ominous harbinger and more of a cautionary reminder about what happens when they put forward inexperienced candidates who are easy prey for the opposition.


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While House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the most prominent California Republican, kept his distance from the recall, Governor Newsom was regularly joined by Democratic members of Congress, who linked the recall to Trump’s refusal to concede defeat and to the January 6th assault on the Capitol.

“A different type of insurrection in California,” as Representative Karen Bass put it at a rally in Los Angeles.


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