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California Governor Gavin Newsom faces victory in the upcoming recall election as the polls fluctuate sharply in his favor

Gavin Newsom is the second California governor to ever face a recall and will likely be the first to survive one.

All eyes are on the Golden State ahead of Tuesday's re-election, an imminent deadline for registered voters in California to vote by mail or in person.

The Democratic governor has spent months vigorously fighting back what he called the GOP's radical seizure of power that has left his career and California's future in the balance.

With its more than $ 70 million war chest, Newsom has covered the airwaves and digital spaces with anti-recall ads starring prominent Democrats like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and former President Barack Obama. The governor has also made numerous campaign stops across the state to reach out to Democratic voters directly, and will even be installed alongside President Joe Biden in Long Beach late Monday.

Newsom has also picked up new campaign messages to boost Democratic turnout, criticizing its main opponent's opposition to Covid containment measures. Among the 46 candidates running in the recall election, the conservative talk show host Larry Elder has become the clear Republican front runner by speaking out against mask and vaccine mandates.

While Newsom is likely to face a closer race in the election just a month ago, its intense campaign efforts appear to be paying off. Experts, recent polls, and early ballot response rates all suggest that Newsom is now well on its way to easily getting past the recall effort.

"It will take a big mistake in the vote for the recall to be successful at this point in time," said Democratic advisor Michael Soneff. "Newsom's chances are very good. I would rather be Gavin Newsom than anyone else in this race."

Newsom's newly motivated democratic base

Although Republican voters were almost 2 to 1 behind the state Democrats, complacency among Newsom's Democratic supporters posed a potential threat to his chances of surviving the recall.

However, a poll published Friday by the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and the Los Angeles Times shows that Democratic voters are more involved in the upcoming recall elections. Sixty percent of likely California voters said they would vote to keep Newsom in office, while only 39 percent would vote to remove him.

This is the first poll to show Newsom beat the recall by more than 20 percentage points, a jump from the previous poll conducted by the same institutions just six weeks ago. The July poll showed a much closer race, with 50% of likely voters approving of keeping Newsom and 47% approving its removal.

A poll by the Public Policy Institute of California in September found that 58% of likely voters are in favor of Newsom, while 39% wanted it to be removed. SurveyUSA and The San Diego Union Tribune found that 54% of the likely voters are in favor of keeping Newsom.

"It seems that the enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats that breathed so much life into the recall so early on has closed," said Dan Schnur, politics professor at three California universities who previously headed the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

“Newsom spent most of the summer convincing the democratic base that [the recall] was worth their time and attention. And the surveys show that he was successful in that endeavor, ”added Schnur.

This increased commitment by the Democrats is also reflected in the rates of early voting paper returns.

The poll, conducted by the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and the Los Angeles Times, estimates that postal votes will make up about half of the electorate.

On Saturday, according to daily data from Political Data Intelligence, registered Democratic voters accounted for about 52% of the nearly 7,800,000 ballots cast so far. Republicans are way behind, making up only 25% of them.

According to Soneff, Republicans were expected to return ballots faster than Democrats due to their excessive interest in the recall elections in the previous months. Now they have to catch up.

"The Democrats have so far outperformed Republicans in voting and gained a whopping head start. Republicans are trying to fill the gap and are definitely making progress, but in the end they won't," Soneff continued.

While more than 14,470,000 ballots remain to be returned, Soneff said the recent response rates "are undoubtedly a great start for Newsom."

According to Soneff, Republicans should outperform Democrats in personal voting on election day.

This is also reflected in the poll by the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and the Los Angeles Times. Of the likely voters who said they would vote in person on election day, 77% said they would vote to remove the governor.

Given the considerable democratic lead of the Democrats in postal votes, however, according to Soneff, it is not to be expected that this will have a significant impact on the election result.

A poll worker puts a postal ballot into a security box during the recall election of Governor Gavin Newsom at a center in San Clemente, Calif., On Tuesday, September 7, 2021.

Paul Bersebach | MediaNews Group | Getty Images

Larry Elder Repeats Trump's "Big Lie"

Soneff noted that the lower return rate so far from Republicans after the 2020 presidential election isn't entirely surprising.

Former President Donald Trump notoriously slammed the mail-in vote last year, falsely claiming that it was fraudulent and detrimental to Republicans.

Trump had convinced a large part of his Republican base that the postal vote was "corrupt", which could explain the depressing response rate of the Republicans in the previous recall elections, said Soneff.

“Postal voting has been going on in the United States since the late 18th

Trump's influence can be seen in GOP candidates like Elder, who last week on Fox News voiced his distrust of the state and nation's electoral system. Repeating the former president's false claims that there was widespread electoral fraud in the 2020 election, Elder has tried to voice the same doubts about the recall in California.

Biden, who was campaigning with Newsom on the eve of the recall election, linked Elder directly with Trump.

"You all know, last year I had to go up against the real Donald Trump," Biden said at the rally in Long Beach, California as he made the sign of the cross over his chest. "Well, this year the leading Republican running for governor is the closest to a Trump clone I've ever seen in your state."

“Can you imagine that he is the governor of this state? You can't let that happen, ”added Biden.

A well-known figure in California for decades, Elder is the only viable candidate to replace Newsom. 38 percent of likely voters said they would support his candidacy if Newsom was replaced, down from 18 percent at the end of July, according to a poll by the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and the Los Angeles Times.

Support for other Republican candidates has declined, with the next candidate after Elder, Kevin Paffrath, trailing only 10% of likely voter support, according to the poll.

Newsom's coronavirus campaign strategy

Allegations that Newsom mishandled the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic fueled the 2020 Republican-led product recalls.

However, in the weeks leading up to the recall elections, Newsom's campaign has taken up pandemic fears to secure its likely victory.

"The great irony of this election is that what started the recall nine months ago is now helping Newsom fight it off," said GOP adviser Rob Stutzman.

According to a September poll by the Public Policy Institute of California [PPIC], Californians named coronavirus as the state's top problem. Many of Newsom's anti-recall ads and campaign stops over the past few weeks have focused on warning voters of what can happen to the state's coronavirus conditions if a Republican opponent takes his place in office.

"Republicans are trying to recall [Newsom] from office and undo reasonable Covid safety measures for health workers and school staff," former President Barack Obama said in the latest anti-recall ad.

Every voter's ballot "could make the difference between protecting and endangering our children, helping Californians recover, or turning us backwards," Obama added.

Biden conveyed a similar message during his remarks at the Long Beach rally on Monday.

"Voting no would protect the Californians from Trump Republicans trying to prevent us from defeating this pandemic," Biden said at the rally.

Another anti-recall ad specifically slammed Elder, the Republican top candidate in the race, claiming that he would "pedal deadly conspiracy theories and get rid of vaccine mandates on day one."

Elder promised to lift all vaccination and masking requirements at a rally in Fresno in late August. "If I become governor, assuming there are still mandates for vaccines and mandates for face masks, they will be lifted before I have my first cup of tea," he said at the rally, getting the crowd to roar in applause.

Candidate for governor Larry Elder speaks during a press conference at the Luxe Hotel Sunset Boulevard on Sunday, September 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA.

Francine Orr | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Elder has openly opposed coronavirus health measures, even claiming in an interview with CNN on Aug. 31 that science does not suggest that young people should be given vaccines and wear masks in schools.

Part of Newsom's latest strategy is to harness Elder's opposition to coronavirus-related health action, which has encouraged Democrats to take action and vote on the recall, Schnur said.

"One campaign to motivate voters is to tell them very frightening and alarming things about the opposition," said Schnur. "And Larry Elder is perfect for it. If it hadn't existed, Gavin Newsom would probably have wanted to invent it."

Aside from warning voters of his Republican challengers, the governor has spent the final weeks of his campaign promoting his own efforts to fight the coronavirus over the past few months.

“California has one of the lowest [Covid] case rates in America and one of the highest vaccination rates in America because we believe in science, we believe in public health. We are not ideological, we are open to argument and interested in “evidence,” said the governor at a rally in San Leandro with Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday.

PPIC President Mark Baldassare suggests that Newsom's response to the coronavirus could be another of his recall strengths, which could increase Democratic turnout.

According to the September PPIC poll, about 6 in 10 Californians and likely voters agree with the way Newsom has dealt with the coronavirus pandemic. And more than 3 in 4 Californians think the state government is doing "an excellent or good job" distributing Covid-19 vaccines.

"The message around Covid and the importance of keeping the governor on in order to continue this effort around Covid, which is considered the number one issue in California, is motivating Democratic voters these past few days," said Baldassare.

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