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Skelton: Elder recall was best thing for Newsom

When radio talk show host Larry Elder entered the race to recall governors, it couldn’t have been better – for Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Elder carried with him three decades of provocative right-wing rhetoric that Newsom turned into a frightening wake-up call for sleepy Democrats. This prompted them to vote against Newsom’s ouster for fear Elder would replace him as governor.

Not only vote, but do it early by mailing or dropping off their ballots. This has been of great help to Newsom.

What difference does it make whether a vote is cast early or on election day? A lot. An early vote is worth more to a candidate.

This is because if you have already voted, the candidate can save money and time by not bothering to request your vote. The campaign can withhold mailings, phone calls and door knockings and redirect those dollars and volunteers to those who did not vote.

“We can cross voters off our list and use resources in a more targeted way,” said Juan Rodriguez, Newsom’s anti-recall campaign manager. “This allows us to double the target areas. “

Up-to-date information on who has voted is readily available from county voter registration offices.

“The idea that Republicans don’t trust the mail is crazy,” said Dave Gilliard, a senior GOP consultant and recall strategist. “The people who tell them not to trust the mail are just as crazy.”

Many Republican leaders are realizing this despite the fact that former President Trump falls under the category of “fools.”

California GOP President Jessica Millan Patterson tried to promote early filing of mail-in ballots last year, even as Trump told Republicans mail-in voting reeked of fraud.

In November, 87% of the Californian electorate voted by mail.

By Friday, a third of the reminder ballots mailed to every registered voter had been returned, according to Political Data Inc., which tracks the vote.

Democrats returned 39% of their ballots, Republicans 36% and independents 27%.

But of the total returned ballots, 53% were from Democrats and 25% from Republicans. That’s because there are almost twice as many Democratic voters as Republicans in California.

In a poll released last week by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, 39% of those polled said they had already voted. Of these, 70% voted with Newsom against his recall. And of the 61% who had not yet voted, 54% opposed the recall.

Overall, Newsom beat the recall by a landslide margin – around 60% to 39%.

Other independent polls have reported essentially the same – a very comfortable lead for the Democratic governor.

Just two months ago, Newsom and his allies were concerned about the apathy of Democratic voters. Many Democrats were lukewarm towards the governor and didn’t laugh at the recall election, if they even knew about it.

Steve Smith, communications strategist for the California Labor Federation, sounded the alarm after holding focus groups.

“People have a lot of other things on their minds,” he told me then. “If there isn’t a big turnout, things could get interesting.”

Smith helped organize what he calls “the largest field campaign ever in the state.” Our goal was 10,000 volunteers. We have well over 20,000.

This recruitment of Newsom volunteers was greatly facilitated by Elder’s late entry into the race in July.

“He gave us a lot of material,” says Smith.

Elder has advocated a zero minimum wage, has denigrated women over the years, suggested that descendants of slave owners receive reparations for the loss of their ancestors’ property, opposed the right to abortion – And most damaging for him, has promised to repeal state mandates on mask wearing and vaccinations for civil servants and teachers.

This has come at an optimal time for Newsom. Voters were increasingly concerned about the Delta variant of the coronavirus. The governor aired television commercials proclaiming that voters’ choice of him or Elder was a matter of “life and death.”

Elder’s candidacy was a game-changer. It changed the question in the minds of voters whether Newsom should be recalled to Newsom against Elder as governor.

“When Elder became the leader of the recall movement, that’s when Democrats started to flare up,” Rodriguez says.

Gilliard acknowledges, “Once Newsom was able to distract from himself and put him on a single opponent, the dynamics of the election changed to his advantage. “

The proof is in the IGS polls. An investigation in late July showed the recall issue was all but dead, even with Newsom just slightly ahead.

And only 58% of Democrats expressed great interest in the election, up from 80% in the last poll.

Poll director Mark DiCamillo said many Democratic voters “fear a conservative Republican will become governor. This would upset the entire well-established applecart.

“It really resonated with voters and got them out of the woods. A moderate Republican would not have aroused so much fear.

The poll found that 51% of voters who opposed the recall were skipping the question of who should replace Newsom.

“It hit me,” says DiCamillo.

Among those who had already voted, their main reasons why the replacement question was empty were that they “didn’t feel comfortable” with any of the candidates and that choosing one “would be detrimental to Newsom”.

How they came to that last conclusion is baffling, as the replacement issue had nothing to do with Newsom’s recall. Except Newsom encouraged him – perhaps to raise Elder like a punching bag.

In the poll, Elder had a large lead over the other candidates and was supported by 69% of Republicans.

“If the Democrats voted, the percentage of elders [38%] would go far, ”says DiCamillo. “It really makes him seem more popular than he is.”

Elder, however, is very popular within the Newsom camp.