September 16, 2021
With about 70% of the projected vote counted, 63.9% of Californians voted against recalling Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom (D), while 36.1% voted for it—almost identical to Joe Biden’s 63%-34% win in the state in 2020, NBC News reports.
So how did Newsom do it, especially compared with the successful gubernatorial recall from 2003?
In 2003, California had 15 million registered voters. Of those, 6.7 million of them were registered Democrats (43.7%) and 5.4 million were registered Republicans (35.3%), with the rest Independent or other.
That’s right: Today there are 7 million more registered voters in California than there were back in 2003, but the number of Republicans has declined since then.
The second big reason that Newsom won has been the change inside the Republican Party over the last 18 years, in which Donald Trump is certainly no Ronald Reagan and in which Larry Elder is no Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Per the NBC News exit poll of last night’s race, 34% of all voters said they had a favorable view of Elder, versus 50% who said they had a negative view. (That’s compared with 55% in the exit poll who said they approved of Newsom’s job, versus 43% who disapproved.)
Over the last 30 years, successful and competitive GOP candidates (think Schwarzenegger, Pete Wilson, even Meg Whitman) supported abortion rights and came (more or less) from the moderate wing of the GOP.
That doesn’t describe Elder, who opposes abortion rights and comes from the conservative wing of the party.
Outside of those two macro-trends in California, there’s a tactical reason why Newsom won so easily.He and his allies leaned heavily into masks and vaccines—especially as a way to motivate Democratic voters.
Per the exit poll, 63% of voters in the recall said getting the COVID vaccine is a public health responsibility, versus 34%, who said it’s a personal choice—which almost exactly matches the No-Yes margin on Tuesday night, September 14.
And on masks, 70% of voters said they supported California requiring children to wear masks in school, and they voted against the recall by an 80%-to-20% margin, according to the exit poll.
Research contact: @NBCNews