Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons license 2.0

Hey, Wonketteers in California, and for that matter, Wonketteers who know people in the Golden State: With a bit more than a month to go until the September 14 recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom, the polls are starting to look closer than might be comfortable for the incumbent governor.

Up through May, most polls showed "No, do not remove" leading by a comfortable margin. But with the election getting closer and the Delta variant of the coronavirus leading to more communities requiring indoor masking again, the polling has tightened quite a bit, with two major polls showing a statistical dead heat (both showed Newsom surviving, but with a lead within the margin of error), and a new SurveyUSA poll released Wednesday showing 51 percent of respondents saying they'd recall him, and just 40 percent wanting him to stay in office.

That's not encouraging news for Newsom, who may also face an "enthusiasm gap" in the electorate: Republicans really want to remove Newsom, and are more likely to say they plan to vote than people who say "yeah, whatever, he's OK, I don't want the dude with the rented bear..."


As American Prospect's Harold Meyerson wrote in a an LA Times op-ed published Monday, Republican voters,

many Trumpified and defined by a hatred of Democrats, are "full of passionate intensity" (to borrow a line from Yeats). Many Democrats and independents, by contrast, may hardly pay attention to the recall or go to the polls.

It would be very bad if that situation continues. Ballots will start being mailed out to all registered California voters in the next two weeks (counties must have them sent out no later than August 16), and for Newsom to stay in office, he'll need to make up that intensity shortfall.

There are two parts to the recall ballot. The first simply asks, "Shall GAVIN NEWSOM be recalled (removed) from the office of Governor?" If over 50 percent of voters vote "yes," then the second part of the ballot, where voters choose someone to replace Newsom, comes into play. No, Newsom is not on the list of 46 qualifying candidates, and you can't write him in, either. (You can vote "no" on the first part and choose who you think is the least awful candidate, at least; that choice would only count if the "yes" votes recall Newsom.)

If Newsom is recalled, whichever candidate on that list gets the most votes becomes governor until the 2022 general election: no runoffs, no need for a majority. Eek.

Now, because the pandemic state of emergency is still in effect, the election will be conducted primarily by mail, which will at least mean there's a chance voters who might not have been paying attention will be reminded it's happening when their ballots arrive.

Meyerson, we think, has the right idea for waking up Democratic and independent voters and getting them to return those ballots: Remind them what Republican governance looks like in the rest of the country.

Yeah, we were going to take a nap, but we're wide awake now, thanks.

[The] same poll that showed the recall had real prospects of passing also showed a clear front-runner among the 30-some-odd candidates who've entered the fray: Larry Elder, a radio talk show host in the mode of Rush Limbaugh. Even if disgruntled and disproportionately Republican voters don't anoint Elder, most of the other candidates also come from Trump country. In today's Republican Party, no other country exists.

Also, while a Republican governor wouldn't be able to pass any legislation, or even really block laws the state Assembly considers a priority (both houses have veto-proof Democratic majorities), there's all sorts of mischief a Republican chief executive could get up to all on their lonesome:

As Sen. Elizabeth Warren has often noted, personnel is policy, and the governor could discharge any and all executive branch officials and install new ones who aren't subject to legislative confirmation. By so doing, the governor could bring any state programs he or she doesn't like to a shuddering halt.

That could include mask mandates during the pandemic, or state promotion and provision of COVID-19 vaccinations. That could also include ordering state departments to slow-walk or shut down programs that the Legislature has enacted, such as expanding Medi-Cal to elderly undocumented Californians. A court fight would doubtless ensue, but the program could be put on hold until the courts ruled — and the same fate would likely befall other programs not in accord with the right's priorities.

Or if you'd really like to scare your California progressive friends into remembering to vote, you might remind them that if Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who's 88, were to retire or God Forbid the worst happened, her replacement could be appointed by a Trumpist Republican. Say goodbye to the tied US Senate, too.

So yeah, this recall is pretty freaking important. Get the phone trees going, you filthy California fuckatofus!

[SurveyUSA poll / 538 / LAT / Cal Matters recall FAQ / Photo by Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons license 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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