San Antonio Express-News (Sunday)
Newsom’s tactic in Calif. recall: Beat ‘Trumpism’
SACRAMENTO — As the campaign to oust him heads into its final weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California is hammering home the choice he has presented to voters since the start of the recall — Donald Trump or him.
“We defeated Trump last year, and thank you, but we haven’t defeated Trumpism,” Newsom has repeated for the past two weeks in a blitz of campaign stops and Zoom calls. From vaccine resistance to climate denial, he says, everything that terrified California liberals about the past president is on the ballot. And far more than his own personal future hangs in the balance: “This is a matter of life and death.”
His opponents dispute that. Newsom, they say, is the problem, and the recall never would have come to an election had a critical mass of the state not resented his pandemic restrictions
on businesses and classrooms, even as his own finances were secure and his own children got inperson instruction. Trump, they note, is not a candidate.
“Newsom is scaremongering,” David Sacks, a Silicon Valley venture
capitalist supporting the recall, tweeted recently.
Newsom and the Democratic establishment are presenting the effort as a radical power grab, with some partisans even comparing it at one point to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
By invoking Trump as his opponent of choice, Newsom is reprising a message he has used in the past to blunt criticism effectively, while also testing a strategy likely to be echoed by Democrats seeking to mobilize voters in midterm races across the country next year.
In effect, the leader Californians elected in a 2018 landslide is running less on the Democratic policies of a Democratic incumbent than on an urgent if familiar call to action against an existential threat to blue state values.
Polls suggest Newsom is making his case and has pulled ahead of his opponents — an abrupt focusing of Democratic minds after likely voters indicated this summer that the race might be tightening. A survey released Sept. 1 by the Public Policy Institute of California found that only 39 percent of likely voters, mostly Republican, support the recall, while 58 percent plan to vote no.