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Why Gavin Will Crush Recall and Emerge Stronger

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

The MSM chases Caitlyn Jenner like dogs in heat and John Cox’s big bear makes it official: the attempted recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom is a circus.

On Planet Earth, however, which clown in the car is most popular matters not to Prince Gavin, whose focus is on the central issue of not getting Gray Davis Disease.

Yes or No on Recall, that is the question. All the rest is commentary.

Calbuzz is slavering over next week’s release of gobs of juicy new data from the Institute of Governmental Studies at Berkeley (bought and paid-for from a state government institution by the mighty, woke LA Times), but we can’t wait and so have limbered up for some serious punditry framing the recall.

We rarely make predictions but when we do, we’re always right — just ask President Hillary Clinton. Here’s another we feel comfortable typing for the record:

Gavin beats the recall easily; emerges stronger and wins a landslide re-election next year, forcing the rest of us to listen to him talk (and talk and talk and talk) until 2026.

There’s no Arnold this time. From polling that we’ve seen or know about and what you might call “Actual Reporting,” Newsom would triumph in an election held today with 55-60% voting No on recall. Catch you next year Caitlyn.

Wisely, Prince Gavin’s brain trust, stylists and coat carriers keep him aloof from the mud wrestling among the carnival of wannabes and fully engaged on behaving like a governor. That’s good for citizens ensconced in what you might call your wildland-urban interface during fire season.

So, Gavin talks (and talks and talks and talks) about vaccinations, low disease rates, Covid relief and economic recovery driven by unspeakable amounts of free money handed out by the state and Newsom’s pals Joe, Kamala and Nancy. Meanwhile, his surrogates — elected officials, union leaders, teachers, social welfare pleaders, the woke — do the hard work of flipping the question for voters from a referendum on Gavin to a plebiscite about Trumpism, its misogyny, xenophobia, hatred and racial injustice.

Our person in Vegas (she, her) says the smart money is heavy on the Democratic coalition succeeding in the mission.

The Feinstein model. As mayor of San Francisco in 1982, California Ultra Senior Senator Dianne Feinstein wept when she learned that a recall petition against her had qualified for the ballot.

But Clint Reilly, her political consultant at the time, seized on the measure as a splendid opportunity not only to skunk the recall but also to make Feinstein invincible in the regular mayoral election only months later.

Feinstein beat the 1983 recall, winning 80% of the vote. A few months later she was overwhelmingly re-elected to her final term in the regular election and spent the next four years dominating politics in San Francisco. In the immortal words of the late great TV political reporter Rollin Post, “She ruled like a Roman empress.”

(The 1983 recall is chronicled in granular if exhausting detail in “Never Let Them See You Cry,” the essential volume — plenty of free parking — about Feinstein’s prairie years and San Francisco’s history in the 1970s and ‘80s.)

That’s the model Team Gavin is aiming to use, not the flailing failure of Gov. Gray Davis to hold onto the governor’s office by losing control of the message and being thoroughly eclipsed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

When all is said and done and Newsom survives the recall, he will be stronger, not weaker, than ever before. He will have survived the slings and arrows, knives and gunfire, of the most virulent negativists in politics. He will have been steeled in ways that few besides Feinstein can boast.

Faking sincerity — the key to success. Gavin currently is running around the state oozing sincerity and displaying just enough flashes of humility to atone for his maskless French Laundry dinner, if not his hair, orthodontia, arrogance, condescension and entitlement.

By forcefully re-defining the recall as a Trump coup attempt, Newsom wins the war of arithmetic in California where party registration is now 46.17% Democrat, 24.14% Republican and 23.73% No Party Preference

The most recent PPIC poll put Newsom’s job approval at about 56% — the same number of respondents who said no to recall. In that survey, 85% of Democrats and 58% of independents opposed the recall, numbers that eclipse the fact that eight in 10 California Republicans said they want to oust him.

Even factoring in inflated Republican turnout attracted by the circus of political bears and monkeys, Prince Gavin (the Trumpistas call him “Pretty Boy” – original!) is on a glidepath to winning a vote of confidence.

It’s partisanship, Jake.

A nationalized campaign. As one smart strategist close to Newsom pointed out to us, the media landscape is so completely different than it was for Davis or Feinstein, we now know about issues and people in places we never did in the past. We know who the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania is, the governor of Florida and the mayor of Atlanta’s middle name. Katie Porter and Eric Swalwell have nationwide name recognition that Howard Berman and Don Edwards never had.

When it’s over, people all over America will know that Newsom survived an all-out assault from the Trumpist Wing of the Republican Party which is — for all intents and purposes — the Republican Party itself. Sure, his negatives will be higher than they otherwise would have been. But the 35-40% of the reactionary base who will despise him were never his to begin with.

Of course, this national profile cuts both ways. More right-wingers around the country know who they don’t like in California. But there’s no single candidate for them to invest in, while Newsom picks up financial support from those who backed Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.

Fred Davis’s Grizzly Bear ad for John Cox was nicely aimed at the Trump base. They buy that shit. But that’s not nearly enough to oust the governor. Any more than his Demon Sheep or I’m Not a Witch ads could lift their principals.

Newsom will survive. What he’ll do next is uncertain. He likely won’t ever challenge Kamala Harris for the Democratic nomination for president — they share the same consultants (which is partly why Newsom went for governor while Harris went for the U.S. Senate).

Take it from a couple of cancer survivors, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.