California Governor Gavin Newsom kicked off his fight to keep his job in San Francisco on Friday night and fell back on the old, established Democratic attack strategy of trying to paint his leading adversary, Larry Elder, as “more to the right” than Donald Trump.
Elder is ahead in the polls to replace Newsom if voters agree he should be recalled. It’s kind of strange because the California recall election on September 14 has two questions that need to be answered: 1. Should Gavin Newsom be recalled; and 2. Who should replace him?
So instead of attacking the recall, which would make the second question moot if he prevailed, Newsom is attacking someone he’s not running against.
The polls show that if the election were held today, a majority of 51 percent of voters would recall the governor and only 40 percent would vote against the recall. Those numbers are fluid, especially now that Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have announced they will stump for the Democratic governor.
Related: Biden to the Rescue: President Jumps in to Save Newsom in California Recall Vote
But Newsom’s strategy of trying to paint the mild-mannered, moderate conservative Larry Elder as a flaming right-wing attack dog is silly.
“He’s to the right of Donald Trump. To the right of Donald Trump. That’s what’s at stake in this election and don’t think for a second you can’t do damage in that role. Think about the judges he could appoint. Who would he have appointed to replace Kamala Harris in the U.S. Senate? How would that impact the trajectory of this country. What would this mean for the future of the Democratic party in our efforts to keep the House of Representatives,” Newsom said Friday in San Francisco.
Californians are set to receive ballots next week for the recall election, which will be held on Sept. 14.
With a three-to-one registration advantage for Democrats in California, Newsom would appear to be on safe ground in calling for a maximum effort to keep the House of Representatives Democratic.
Otherwise, not everyone is convinced that the Democratic Party agenda is good for the country.
Newsom’s comments on Friday came amid his first official campaign event urging residents to vote no to his recall on election day. The ballot will also ask voters who of the 46 candidates should replace Newsom.
“Just vote no. You don’t even have to touch the other part. The other part is irrelevant. Don’t even touch it. Simple no. This is about the easiest ballot you ever had to fill out. Just vote no. No on the recall,” said Newsom.
This is actually Newsom’s biggest advantage. He may be unpopular. He may be seen as an arrogant elitist. But voters are going to have to be convinced that one of the 47 candidates on the ballot would be worthy of replacing him. Newsom wants voters to focus on a specific alternative to him, hoping that if he can put a face to an opponent, it will force people to deal with a specific alternative to him.
There’s nothing new with Democrats branding a conservative as an extremist. Going all the way back to Barry Goldwater’s 1964 run, Democrats have been trying to scare voters with visions of a right-wing bogeyman. They branded Reagan as an extremist too. And both Bushes, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. It didn’t always work then, but will it work now?
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