How much trouble is Gavin Newsom in?

A considerable amount, according to Helaine Olen, a Washington Post columnist who seems sympathetic to the California governor. She cites a recent poll by the Los Angeles Times in which 47 percent of likely voters said they favor recalling Newsom and 50 percent said they don’t.

There’s also the matter of intensity. Many anti-Newsom Californians are very angry at the governor. His supporters don’t feel as strongly, in Olen’s plausible view. Thus, they are less likely to vote.

Newsom has one big advantage, though. According to Olen, Newsom and his backers are sitting on $43.4 million, more than double the amount raised by all his rivals combined.

Soon, the Newsom money will produce an ad blitz. He has already released an ad in which Elizabeth Warren claims that “Trump Republicans” are behind the recall effort. It was paid for, in part, by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.

Running against Trump is a good strategy in a state as “blue” as California. Nothing is more likely to generate pro-Democrat voter intensity. Terry McAuliffe is trying to do the same thing in the less “blue” state of Virginia. I’m pretty sure these ads test well on focus groups.

Speaking of money, Newsom has, in Olen’s words, been “spreading [it] around like a political Santa Claus.” For example:

[Newsom’s] efforts include $4 billion for small-business relief and additional investments to phase in 200,000 child-care slots (with preschool and child-care providers even getting raises). The state’s eviction moratorium has been extended, so it won’t expire till after the September recall election, and there’s also money for renters in need.

Newsom is also hedging his bets on the pandemic. California recommends mask wearing, but the governor is leaving it to the counties to decide whether to make that mandatory. He hopes local politicians will take the heat from those unhappy with local decisions. I doubt Newsom can insulate himself this way, but we’ll see.

Olen concludes that the election will come down to whether Newsom can motivate those who think he’s doing okay to vote against recall. Olen isn’t saying he can’t, and neither am I. However, Newsom seems to be in more trouble than many thought he would be.

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