Campaign appearances by Democratic stars, as well as an intensified focus on the contrast in the two parties' values, has lifted California Gov. Gavin Newsom into a comfortable lead against the effort to recall him from office. A poll released Friday found that 60.1% of likely voters oppose the recall, while 38.5% support removing Newsom, the Los Angeles Times reports. And their minds appear to be made up, which bodes well for Newsom: Not 2% of likely voters didn't give an answer or said they're still undecided. The poll was conducted between Aug. 30 and Sept. 6 by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies. The election is Tuesday; mail-in ballots have been sent out, and voting has begun.
In July, another poll by the institute found the voters almost evenly split. The factors driving Newsom's turnaround include:
- COVID success. Newsom's opponents cited his unpopular handling of the pandemic when launching the recall attempt. But now, new infections are dropping, per the Hill. "By the time the ballots arrived, his pro-vaccine mandate, pro-mask mandate policies were popular with a majority of voters, including 40% of Republicans," said Rob Stutzman, a GOP strategist.
- Democratic support. Vice President Kamala Harris and Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Bernie Sanders were among the big names who appealed to California voters to keep Newsom. A GOP strategist working to recall Newsom said the effort might have come just in time. "You wouldn't have President Obama here on TV in the final week if you weren't worried about your base," he said.
- The rise of an opponent. Early in the campaign, the only issue was Newsom. Then Larry Elder broke away from the GOP field. Many of the talk show host's views, including his positions on masks and vaccinations, conflict with those of the majority of Californians. The new poll found 89% of likely Democratic voters and 64% of independent voters—65% overall—said electing a conservative Republican governor would endanger California's progressive policies on climate change, immigration, health care and abortion. Democrats were able to focus on Elder, "framing it as 'Look at what you’ll get if you vote for this guy,'" the poll director said, per the Times. "I think that really won the day."
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