A decision by California Democrats to speed up the timeline for the state’s gubernatorial recall vote may prove to be a pivotal miscalculation for the fortunes of frequent critic of former President Donald Trump and current governor, Gavin Newsom (D), according to the Washington Times, and it is all due to an unexpected surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the delta variant.
It was not long after the recall election was set for Sept. 14 that the new coronavirus strain began causing problems in California, a development which spurred Newsom to implement new testing and vaccine mandates for state government employees and to ask particularly populous counties to begin indoor mask wearing once again.
Fresh worries about possible effects of the delta variant surge on school reopening as fall approaches and host of potential new restrictions have combined to create the perfect storm for Newsom, whose handling of the pandemic was among the top issues driving the recall push in the first place, as the Times noted.
With the election itself five weeks away and mail-in ballots going out to voters beginning August 16, time is certainly not on Newsom’s side in terms of distancing himself from the COVID-driven controversies that initially threatened his tenure in office.
The Times quoted University of California, Berkeley professor Dan Schnur as suggesting that while the GOP still has a tough task when it comes to unseating Newsom, “COVID could be the great equalizer,” adding:
For most of the year, COVID has been Newsom’s biggest opponent and best ally. The recall caught fire during the worst of last winter’s outbreak, and Newsom rebounded in the spring when things began to open up again. So if voters are getting more worried about masks and vaccines again, that creates a much bigger political challenge for him.
Notably, officials in the state could have delayed the recall vote all the way until November, but the date of Sept. 14 was announced back in July, a mere two weeks after Newsom announced the lifting of widespread COVID-19 restrictions in the state.
As the Times noted, Joshua Spivak of Wagner College deemed that move “a very foolish decision” and added, “They kind of jumped on some decent numbers, but they gave up a big advantage.” Steven Maviglio, a Democrat strategist in the state, opined, according to the outlet, “The delta variant has thrown the whole recall up in the air for the governor. He was hoping this would be behind him, and now it’s right in front of him and it’s on the mind of every voter, every voter with kids, every businessperson.”
As The Hill reports, a new Emerson College – Nexstar poll just revealed an almost even divide among California voters over the recall question, with 46% of respondents declaring their desire for Newsom’s ouster and 48% registering opposition, with 6% still undecided. In what could be dire foreshadowing for Newsom, the number of undecided voters dropped by 3% in recent weeks, with the tally of those in favor the recall growing by that same margin.
The sheer unpredictability of COVID-19 has frustrated doctors, patients, and epidemiologists alike since early last year, and it appears increasingly likely that its unexpected resurgence in California may serve to upend that state’s political landscape in a very significant way.