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Newsom’s California recall win won’t roll over to 2022

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Newsom's California recall win won't roll over to 2022

Twins when it comes to voting shares.
Photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images

Without question, the overwhelming defeat of efforts to remove California Governor Gavin Newsom was a huge victory for a Democratic Party that has been struggling recently. The margin of profit for the “No on Recall” campaign was nearly twice the strength of pre-election polls. This eliminated any fears of recalling the Golden State Party’s dominant party. Completely. Now that around three quarters have been counted, “No”, leads to “Yes” by a margin of 63.8 – 36.2 (which could even be greater if you apply the usual pattern for the most recently cast postal vote to the Democrats oriented manifested again).

The “no vote” was almost identical to Joe Biden’s performance in California in 2020 (63.5 percent). Given the extreme partisan polarization underlying the dismissal (exit polls found 89 percent of self-proclaimed Republicans voted “yes” and 94 percent of self-proclaimed Democrats voted “no”), it means that the partisan patterns of the presidential race have been doubled in to a remarkable extent in non-presidential special elections, where Democrats often “fall off”, especially when they control the White House (and in this case the governorship). This is a great result for California Democrats and a good sign for national Democrats as they prepare to suffer the medium-term losses the White House Party usually experiences.

It is important to consider the impact of these results when looking back on events in California in 2020 and the battle for control of House of Representatives in 2022. Fourteen of the 13 net seats that Republicans won in 2020 were from deep blue California. The Democrats are unlikely to retain control of the House of Representatives in the 2022 election without retaking some or all of the seats they lost in one of their strongest states.

The 2020 pattern doubled, so there isn’t much on the recall returns suggesting that the Democrats will likely regain some California House of Representatives seats. Two of the four seats in which Republicans won in 2020, with two Asian-American women Young Kim (and Michelle Steele) as candidates, were located in Orange County. While Orange won “No”, the recall race there was closer than the 2020 Biden Trump competition. The third seat was won by Republican David Valadao, who won in a highly competitive section of the San Joaquin Valley. The recall increased based on Trump’s 2020 performance within each county of his district (e.g. Trump won 55 percent in Kings County while Newsom won 63 percent). These results could indicate an increase in alienation from Sacramento’s water and environmental policies. This could be a result of a decline in Latino turnout, which could spell disaster in the close races in 2022. Either way, Democrats should be cautious about their optimism about the House of Representatives midterm elections.

An analysis of Californian returnees in 2020 showed that Latinos turned out about 10% less than non-Latinos. The recall was tracked by postal ballots. It showed that both Latinos as well as non-Latino voters voted for 20 percent. Surveys also showed that youth participation was very low in recall. These constituencies are not easy to mobilize for special elections. However, this is also true for midterm elections. This problem must be addressed by Democrats in California as well as elsewhere.

Bottom line, Newsom won California’s Democratic and Democratic-minded sections of the electorate by heavily encouraging partisan polarization through its generously funded campaign. This was clearly a smart strategy in a democratic state. It is less certain that this strategy will work with Democrats in 2022. They are unlikely to have a lot of financial advantage and public opinion may have settled away. This has happened with previous presidents. Even if Democrats retain their monopoly of state office and their supermajority within the state legislature, failure to move forward in the House of Representatives could lead to the much-dreaded moment that Californian Nancy Pelosi handed her Hammer to Californian Kevin McCarthy. The Democratic Trifecta, which gives Biden the opportunity to implement his agenda, is ending.

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