California dreaming did not become reality for Republicans. Back in August, they had high hopes of taking over the governor’s mansion and pinned sitting Democratic Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomEquilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Nations plan to pump oil despite net zero promises California Gov. Newsom issues executive order to address supply chain congestion Final California recall count shows Newsom with tally identical to 2018 MORE against the ropes. Then they failed to land the knockout punch.
Republicans snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in their futile fight to recall the incumbent. A poll conducted by CBS News and YouGov only a month ago indicated that large numbers of voters there were ready to depose Newsom from office. But in the end, he easily fended off the challenge with a vicious left hook against his opponent, Larry Elder, whose cornerman was Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new social media network called 'TRUTH Social' Virginia State Police investigating death threat against McAuliffe Meadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report MORE.
The big question is what happened in the last 30 days to turn the tide. The answer is that the GOP is its own worst enemy.
The result from California should serve as a warning to the Republican Party across the country about its encouragement of resistance to pandemic precautions. The epidemic receded in the spring but hurt the party’s fortunes when it reared its ugly head again late in the summer, while Republicans remained indifferent to the life-threatening threat.
Newsom’s resounding victory is a rousing validation of his aggressive fight against the deadly and destructive COVID-19 pandemic. The exit poll indicated that the electorate considered the pandemic the biggest problem facing the state. Four out of every five voters who prioritized the pandemic opposed the recall. Most Californians thought
their governor’s aggressive actions to control the plague were warranted. For example, over 70 percent of the voters supported his mask mandate for school students.
The widespread support for his anti-pandemic program should encourage President BidenJoe Biden White House: US has donated 200 million COVID-19 vaccines around the world Police recommend charges against four over Sinema bathroom protest K Street revenues boom MORE to continue his own major offensive against the disease. Voter validation of Newsom’s achievements is also a repudiation of the failure of Republican policies that give aid and comfort to hardcore anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers who imperil the lives of their fellow Americans.
Govs. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisBiden, Trump tied in potential 2024 match-up: poll Nearly 80 percent of Republicans want to see Trump run in 2024: poll Miami private school orders vaccinated students to stay at home for 30 days as 'precautionary measure' MORE (R-Fla.) and Greg AbbottGreg AbbottThe 10-point Republican immigration plan is punitive and harmful to our country More than 40 Texas hospitals face ICU bed shortages Southwest drops plan to put unvaccinated workers on unpaid leave MORE (R-Texas) could learn an important lesson from Newsom’s success. California is a more populous state than either Texas or Florida but daily COVID-19 deaths in the Great Bear Republic are currently less than half of what they are under GOP chief executives in the Sunshine and Lone Star states. Newsom’s success Tuesday also raises serious questions about Trump’s death grip on his party.
When it became clear to voters in August that they could get rid of the governor and when the identity of the alternative emerged, the tide turned against the recall. At that point, the race became less a referendum on the governor’s performance and more a competition between Newsom and the presumptive Republican gubernatorial candidate, Elder. This dynamic was a disaster for the GOP.
There are millions of Republicans in California and the GOP could hardly have done worse than anoint him as the party’s standard-bearer. But this is the age of Trump in the GOP, and the cream no longer rises to the top in what used to be the party of Lincoln. Elder is a right-wing radio shock jock who trades in invective and insult. His background made him the perfect Trumpian surrogate and a recipe for political disaster. The exit poll revealed that only a third of the voters liked him.
Like his mentor, Elder has insulted women on multiple occasions. He wrote, “Women know less than men about politics.” Women proved him wrong when they came out in massive numbers against the recall.
Elder also likes bringing attention to himself with shocking statements more than he favors engaging and reaching out to voters. He took a stand against any minimum wage in a state where it is already difficult for working families to keep up with the cost of living.
He went out of his way to imitate Trump and paid the price. As long as Republicans encourage Trump-like candidates, the GOP will fail to take advantage of its opportunities in next year’s congressional campaigns.
California still sets national trends even though it isn’t a bellwether state. Both parties can learn lessons from Newsom’s victory and the recall’s failure. The midterm test is only 14 months away so there’s still enough time for Democrats and Republicans to study. Republicans are in political peril if they fail to graduate from the California college of hard knocks.
Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. His podcast, Deadline D.C. with Brad Bannon, airs on Periscope TV and the Progressive Voices Network. His Twitter handle is @BradBannon