Grenell hints at potential California gubernatorial bid

Richard Grenell, a former Trump administration official and popular figure among the GOP’s right flank, hinted that he could run for California governor as Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) faces a recall effort from Republicans.

Speaking at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday, Grenell, a former acting director of national intelligence and ambassador to Germany, launched into an attack against Newsom and praised the recall effort that is gaining steam in the Golden State.

“If you want the best case possible for a recall campaign, take a look at my home state of California. California used to be Reagan country, the shining example of business innovation and middle-class success. But now when you think of California, you think of out-of-control wildfires, of rolling blackouts, of schools still closed, of shuttered business, of bans on fracking,” he told a raucous crowd. 

“In my three decades in American politics, I have never seen a better case for a recall than there is right now in California,” he added. “And of course, if a public official is still failing to deliver on their promises, and if you can’t limit their term or recall them in time, there’s always one other option: You can run against them yourself.” 

Mercedes Schlapp, another former White House official, praised Grenell after his speech, saying on stage, “I don’t know. I think he’d make a great governor of California.”

The remarks come amid reports that Grenell is exploring a bid for governor if the effort to recall Newsom moves forward.

Grenell did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill following his CPAC speech.

Trump allies such as Fox New host Sean Hannity and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) have urged Grenell to launch a gubernatorial bid if Newsom is recalled, and sources previously told The Hill that the former Trump official is considering it, though he has acknowledged that a Republican running for statewide office in California would face tough odds. 

Chatter about a potential Grenell bid comes as Newsom faces a recall effort that appears increasingly likely to make it to ballots later this year.

Proponents of the recall effort are staring down a mid-March deadline to gather the requisite signatures to force a vote. The California secretary of state’s office said that through Feb. 5, it had verified 668,202 signatures of the 1,495,709 that recall advocates need to turn in to force the recall. Another 300,000 signatures had yet to be processed, but recall advocates said they collected about 1.7 million total signatures.

Newsom is facing criticism on multiple fronts. Frustration has boiled over among Republicans for his coronavirus restrictions and their impact on the economy. He also set off a firestorm when he ordered some businesses to shutter and urged Californians to remain home only to be spotted at a posh restaurant celebrating the birthday of a political adviser.

In a sign the controversies have taken a toll, Newsom’s approval rating has dropped from 64 percent in September to just 46 percent in late January, according to a poll conducted by the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies. 

However, some observers speculate that Newsom will survive given the deepening blue hue of the nation’s most populous state. No Republican with a massive following has officially thrown their hat into the ring to oppose Newsom in a recall election, and registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

Grenell would certainly bring a slew of pro-Trump bona fides to a gubernatorial race and would likely excite the GOP base. However, it remains unclear that support for the former president would pay dividends in California, which Trump lost by nearly 30 points.

Tags California gubernatorial election CPAC Gavin Newsom Matt Gaetz Recall election Richard Grenell Sean Hannity

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