“It’s about the lockdowns, stupid.”
Rarely have poll numbers so very clearly telegraphed what an election is about.
California’s recall election is a referendum on pandemic lockdowns. It’s a contest between the state’s white liberal elites who support them, the conservative voters who oppose them, and a persuadable Hispanic electorate that doesn’t especially like Newsom and hates lockdowns.
Newsom’s recall numbers improved as he began opening up the state. As the threat of shutdowns resume, his poll numbers are cratering.
Crime is certainly a factor and the state is overrun with lingering social problems, like public vagrancy, caused by one-party Democrat rule. And elements like critical race theory via California’s racist ethnic studies curriculum are moving the needle, but the big rise or drop in numbers seem very much tethered to closing and reopening.
All of that has left Governor Newsom tap dancing on shutdowns even as his campaign floods the airwaves with ads blaming the recall on Republicans, and showing images of prog hate objects like Trump and Gingrich to stimulate hate rage and terror among the base.
California Democrats have bet everything on Newsom, refusing to accept Dems running in the recall election. That’s a small basket with a lot of fragile eggs. Newsom’s popularity has always been shaky. But as we’ve seen in the last few years, popularity doesn’t matter.
Voters aren’t looking for candidates with charisma, for politicians they like, but for stable figures who will run things in a predictable fashion.
What they hate, in a time of chaos, is chaos.
Newsom’s close, open, and close routine has gotten on the wrong side of an apolitical swing vote that wants to know if it can keep small businesses running and plan for a family reunion.
The problem isn’t just that they hate lockdowns, but that they hate being lied to. Newsom announced a reopening only to turn back to a shutdown. Voters who were already sick and tired of living this way are angry. And small businesses facing the possibility of more instability and collapse are mad as hell.
The question is whether Republicans will be able to capitalize on that or once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
As Democrats nationally pivot to shutdowns, there may be a very big lesson there for them.