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California Voters Get What They Deserve

Michael Barone on

The nation's largest state has just voted in an election triggered by one of the nation's weirdest recall processes, and the results have come out just about where they've been before.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom was elected governor in 2018 by 62% to 38%, a result that was, unsurprisingly in an era of straight-ticket voting and strong partisan allegiance, almost identical to President Joe Biden's 64% to 34% margin over Donald Trump in 2020.

As of this writing -- and it has taken California weeks to fully count its votes in recent general elections -- incomplete returns show 64% of Californians voting against recalling Newsom and only 36% for removing him from office.

That result makes the second question on the ballot about who should replace the governor irrelevant. But it did enable Democrats to spend enormous sums linking Larry Elder, the conservative radio talk host who led in polls on the replacement question, as a clone of Trump.

Some liberals even attacked Elder, who is Black, as a "white supremacist." It's interesting who plays the race card these days.

Newsom's success is good news for Democrats. Polls over the summer showed as many as 47% of voters supporting the recall. When voters focused on facts on the ground such as the growing homeless encampments and the rapidly rising numbers of homicides and carjackings, they found reason to repudiate the liberal policies that Newsom has pursued or supported.

 

Newsom's maskless appearance at the expensive ($350 a plate) French Laundry restaurant, celebrating the birthday of a Democratic lobbyist, was an unforced error, perhaps characteristic of a politician whose core constituency has been San Francisco billionaires.

But an avalanche of TV ads targeting Trump got voters thinking in partisan terms, with the results as noted. Go over the county maps of the 2018, 2020 and 2021 contests and see how the results are the same within a couple of points just about everywhere.

The exit polls, however, suggest some shifts among demographic groups. The recall was opposed by 81% of Black voters, who are only 6% of California's population, but by significantly fewer Asians (62%) and Latinos (58%).

These latter "people of color" groups were less supportive of Newsom than white college graduates (68%). This reflects the increasing dominance in the Democratic Party of white college graduates and the fact that on issues, they are often the party's leftmost group.

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