My View: If Newsom Survives He Can Probably Thank Elder Himself

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

A poll yesterday from Berkeley’s IGS (Institute of Governmental Studies) gave Governor Newsom a huge lead, with 60 percent of likely voters planning to vote against a recall—that is starting to look like the percentage that originally voted for him.

That poll looks less like an anomaly than the continuation of trend.  In the last nine polls, only one has the recall failing by less than 10 points—and that was a poll taken August 26 and had it at Keep +8.’s tracker pretty much tells the story here.  All of a sudden, around August 3, the polls were a dead heat and remained so until about August 10.  By their metric as of yesterday, the polling average showed it Keep 56 to Remove 41.6.

The same IGS poll showed Larry Elder with 38 percent of the vote—overall Elder is averaging about 27.6, or a 20 point advantage, over his next closest competitor.

Those two numbers are not unrelated.

What’s going on here?  The first thing is that looking at the head to head in a single poll is kind of like looking at a baseball player’s batting average.  It tells you something, but we know a lot more these days than simple summary statistics.

The first thing to look at is the partisan split.  Even in August, the partisan split showed nothing that Newsom should have been alarmed about.  He had strong support among Democrats and a relatively evenly split among independents.  In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a whopping +23, that should not have been a cause for concern.

The only way that this was going turn against Newsom, as long as he had Democrats supporting him, was if the Democrats stayed home.

But that’s what was happening in August.  Republicans were motivated to come out and boot Newsom, and Democrats were more concerned about other things.

Enter Larry Elder.

The poll on Friday found that Democrats were now engaged—with 8 in 10 reporting that they were very interested in voting.  An article earlier this week that looked at who had voted found that, while the numbers weren’t quite what they were in November, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by a two to one margin so far.

Something else to note: the IGS poll found that, overall, 54% of the likely voters approve of Newsom’s performance to only 43% disapproving.  Those don’t look like numbers of an electorate that was about to fire Newsom.  Gray Davis, by contrast, was in the low 30s when he was booted.

What changed?  My sense has been when Larry Elder became the frontrunner, he started gaining a lot of press attention.  The press attention helped him with Republicans and, in a field where Democrats have abdicated the replacement race, that has helped him there.

But it gave Newsom a target.  He had a lot of money.  And he basically used Larry Elder as his foil—and more importantly as a means to scare the Democrats into getting off their duff and coming out to vote.

The Mercury News reports that “analysts say that while Elder is popular with some conservatives, his rise in the polls may actually be helping drive turnout among Democrats who oppose many of his strident viewpoints.”

Indeed, “Newsom’s campaign is stressing Elder’s pro-gun, anti-abortion views, noting he wants to eliminate everything from COVID-19 mask mandates to the minimum wage.”

When this is over, I hope our legislature looks long and hard at ways to improve on the recall process.

First, like most, the threshold is too low.

While from a practical manner, there is no way to mandate that recall be more than just about partisan politics or unpopularity, it’s clear that anyone with the resources and a block of voters with hatred for a governor could mobilize to force a recall vote.

Even in a state where the governor is relatively popular, any time there is a solid bloc of 30%, a recall could be induced.

In the Mercury News article, Anne Dunsmore, campaign manager for the pro-recall group Rescue California, basically said the recall sends “a message to Democrats.

“This is just the battle. It’s not the end of the war,” she said. “We’ve made our point.”

But the message I think it sends to Democrats is not that Republicans can realistically challenge Democrats statewide, it’s that there is a loophole in the system that allows havoc to be reaped.

Second, I have a big problem with having the second question on the same ballot.

Some have suggested that recall should be like an impeachment, and that would mean the Lt. Governor would take over if the Governor is recalled.

Personally, I would prefer a separate election, where candidates can announce having already known that the governor is recalled, rather than the current system which does them concurrently.

More expensive to do it that way.  But fairer.  In 2003, Cruz Bustamante put himself on the ballot but had a tough row to hoe as he had to thread the line between calling for no on the recall, but vote for me.  It puts the party in power in a difficult bind.  This time they chose to sit it out.

From an electoral standpoint that seems to be the better strategy.  That allowed Newsom to focus on Larry Elder.  A strong Democrat might have lessened that message.

The dual question recall probably helped Republicans in 2003 when it was Arnold Schwarzenegger on the ballot, but hurt them this time with Larry Elder.

My recommendation would be a higher threshold to get a recall on the ballot and a separate election for the replacement.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Keith Olsen

    Enter Larry Elder.

    That certainly is part of it but don’t overlook that Newsom starting sending out stimulus checks that coincided almost directly to the timing of people submitting their votes.  Coincidence?  Hardly…

    Did Newsom use government funds to help buy his votes?  I think he did.

    1. David Greenwald

      Except that the change was the Democratic engagement. Stimulus money wasn’t going to change Democratic engagement, Larry Elder did. You have to look at the data.

      1. Keith Olsen

        I find it hard to believe that you wrote an article on how Newsom survives a recall and didn’t mention the stimulus money handouts coinciding with the timing of the vote and how that effected the outcome.

        The checks have started arriving as California voters are casting ballots by mail for a Sept. 14 election to decide whether Newsom should be recalled from office.
        Some candidates to replace Newsom say the timing of the payments appears intended to boost Newsom’s popularity with voters who are deciding whether he gets to keep his job.
        Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder cited Newsom’s announcement on Twitter, commenting sarcastically, “Why recall the guy who gives us money!?!”
        Within hours of the announcement that money was going out, the California Democratic Party cited the stimulus payments on social media in urging people to vote to keep Newsom in office, saying he “has worked tirelessly to support” California families during the pandemic.

          1. David Greenwald

            Your speculating. We have data that showed that the difference in the recall numbers from six weeks ago is Democratic engagement. A key part of that strategy has been attacking Larry Elder as an extremist and scaring the hell out of Democrats. It worked. There is no data backing your position.

        1. Keith Olsen

          I apologize, WTF was I thinking?

          Sending out $600 payments each to every person that qualified at election time obviously couldn’t sway how any voters might vote.  It was just a coincidence that the money happened to be dispersed when people were sending in their ballots.  The Democrats would never plan it that way and even if they did it wouldn’t sway anyone’s vote.


        2. David Greenwald

          You’re bringing a knife to a gun fight, when you arrive without data.  You’re just repeating yourself without bringing additional evidence to back your position.

        3. Alan Miller

          You’re bringing a knife to a gun fight, when you arrive without data.

          Actually, it’s more like bringing a shuttlecøck to a tennis match, if you get my drift . . .

  2. Ron Glick

    “Your speculating. We have data that showed that the difference in the recall numbers from six weeks ago is Democratic engagement.”

    And what are you doing?

    The last two PPIC polls taken months apart were static at 59-41. The one poll showing it close you cited was actually the outlier. That Dems were not engaged months in advance but are now that its time to vote shouldn’t be a much of a surprise. It is not unusual for people not in the pundit class to not be engaged until its time to vote.

    The Democrats have a huge registration advantage and they are capitalizing on it with postage paid mail in ballots being sent to every registered voter making it easy to participate. While the polls record likely voters many more occasional voters are likely to participate as a result of the ease of casting a ballot by mail.

    The recall was never actually close although I’m sure the Newsom campaign was happy to have that outlier poll to wake up the electorate.


    1. David Greenwald

      There were a series of six polls taken from late July through early August that shows the recall was within the 3 to 5 points.  There was then a gap in polls for about a week or two and then the latest polls since August has shown Newsom increasingly safe.  The key difference in those polls was lack of Democratic enthusiasm and projected Democratic turnout.

  3. Bill Marshall

    There is a significant factor folk are missing… not the main one, but in combination, significant…

    Republican in-fighting… where two of the “would-be” leaders realized Elder was stealing their thunder, so they started attacking him… turned off part of their base, and, from talking to folk, turning off the NPP’s (who are not “anyone’s” base, but comprise nearly 24% of voters, and likely an even higher %-age of those ‘most likely to vote’).  That has always been the ‘field of play’ that will decide the first ballot measure.  “True demos” and “true reps” almost always vote their party.  Demos were smart enough to put all their eggs in one basket — Newsom — even if they had to pinch their nose.

    The California Republican party has tended to be its own worst enemy, with many self-inflicted wounds, particularly in the last decade or so.  The recent “top-two” primary voting laws are likely to exacerbate this, as the NPP’s are nearly as numerous as Reps.

    The assertion that largess to individuals played a factor either way, is silly.  It is rather the largess promised (or threatened to be lost if Demo’s failed) towards broader constituencies… as far as significance to any individual voter, that is/was “chump change” compared to the larger largess.

    The “other shoe” will be if legal charges of “fraud” come into play if Newsom retains office.  That would likely further weaken the Republicans if they play that silly card.  Didn’t work in November, won’t work now.

  4. Ron Oertel

    I don’t know much about Elder, but I assume he’s pretty conservative (and wouldn’t win a general election in California).

    The Republicans blew a golden opportunity regarding the candidates (and issues) put forth.  They could have selected someone moderate, who could have focused on issues such as the Democrats’ (and Newsom’s) support for YIMBY housing bills (which are actually quite unpopular – according to the polls I’ve seen), prison releases, ties to business and labor, and “wokeness” in general.

    Oh, and the impact of the Covid shutdowns on small businesses, which seemed to be the real driver of the whole thing.

    They needed a Schwarzenegger, not a Jenner. What a disappointment Jenner turned out to be.

    In California, you also need someone concerned about the environment (e.g., sprawl, global warming, etc.). And someone who doesn’t vilify immigrants, even if they don’t support illegal immigration.

    You’d think that they would have worked this out in advance of the recall.

    1. Keith Olsen

      I totally agree Ron, Elder wasn’t a good option.

      They needed someone more moderate who could pound on the issues.  And yes, SFR zoning would have been a winning issue for any Newsom opponent.

      It’s hard for conservatives to run for any office these days with the media almost totally in the left’s corner.

        1. Alan Miller

          In response to KO, I assume, DG said . . .

          The Republicans chose, like you, to vote for Elder.

          I’m not sure why you, DG, said that, as KO said . . .

          I totally agree Ron, Elder wasn’t a good option.

          That makes me think maybe he isn’t – why would you assume who he is voting for?

          Maybe KO said somewhere else he is voting for Elder (I’m not combing the archives for trivia).

          The San Diego Mayor ran, he fit that profile.

          I am personally voting for Kevin Faulconer.   Before I’d looked at the candidates, I said I was voting for Elder.  I’ve listened to his radio show a few times and he seems like a decent guy, but his politics are a bit “Christian Style midwest conservative” for my taste.  Faulconer is much more moderate.  I think Elder mainly took off because he has his own media platform in his radio show and thus a base, however small.  This is similar to Schwarzenegger, only his base was much larger, and much stupider – he was a movie star.  But any base is something in this weird environment.
          I don’t know why you, DG, reject the notion that stimulus checks were sent out as a way to buy votes.  This is so patently obvious it need not even be questioned, but of course one can never connect those dots at the Capitol . . . but why defend it?  All it says is incumbents have advantages, and those with power have advantages.  As long as Newsom is never caught on audio tape, he’ll get away with it.

  5. Ron Oertel

    After reviewing David’s article, one thing I disagree with him on is how “loyal” voters are to any given party.

    Seems like the Democrats are increasingly taking this for granted. That’s generally a recipe for failure, in the long term.

    This state has elected Republican governors (other than the Governator). It is not as “liberal” of a state as some might believe. Even as it diversifies.

    As far as who is “put forth” – there absolutely was control over that, by those who were behind this recall. That should have been part of the strategy.

    Why initiate a recall, if you don’t have someone (a particular replacement) in mind?

  6. Ron Glick

    “You’d think that they would have worked this out in advance of the recall.”

    If you did you would be wrong. The Republicans in this state are stuck in the Dan Lungren and Pete Wilson 90’s. The train left the station a long time ago. Trump ran a Pete Wilson style campaign in 16 and won nationally but lost in California by millions of votes. He also solidified California as a Democratic stronghold for another generation.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again as long as people think you want to deport grandma they aren’t voting for you.


    1. Ron Oertel

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again as long as people think you want to deport grandma they aren’t voting for you.

      Perhaps a more successful message (could) be that they want to keep someone else’s grandma from making a dangerous, illegal trek, or from having a smuggler drop someone else’s infant over a wall.

      I don’t buy the argument that just because someone else might originate from the same country as your ancestors means that you support illegal immigration from any particular country.

      That would go for the “non-st*thole” countries (as Trump might put it), as well.  Of course, they have less-incentive (and usually have an ocean in the way). More likely, they would prevent illegal immigration FROM the U.S., as most countries do.

      Of course, a lot of worse-off countries (also) have an ocean in the way.

      I’m not sure that Canadians are all that crazy about Americans, but we may all be headed that way soon (as the climate continues to change). We’ll just tell them that we’re on our way to Alaska.

      1. Ron Glick

        The Canadians took a lot of refugees from the US during the Vietnam war.

        When was the last time you went to Canada? In fact, if you were to visit Canada you would see that it is full of immigrants. Vancouver is as diverse as SanFrancisco.

        1. Ron Oertel

          It was a joke, sort of.  I’ve heard that housing in Vancouver is pretty expensive, though.

          Even within places in the U.S. – they don’t like people from California, driving up housing prices, making it more crowded, bringing their “California values” with them, etc.

          There are places where one would be wise to change California license plates after arrival, as soon as possible.

          This is occurring in places like Boise, now.

          Oregon has long-had a reputation of that.

          Seems to me that quite a few Californians move away from other Californians. 🙂

  7. Bill Marshall

    Report from the “front”…

    Can’t speak to #/%-ages of VBM returned by mail, or ‘drop boxes’… VAC-2 @ VMC was around 45 VBM’s dropped off, and ~ 30 ballots issued.  Our roving inspector said we were one of the highest VAC’s.  Today is first day of early voting, with Sun, Mon to follow, and then Tuesday as ‘Election Day’… votes cast and received, or post-marked by 8 PM Tuesday are deemed valid as to timeliness… there are the other criteria as signature, other factors as to whether ‘provisional’, ‘conditional’ ballots will be eventually counted in the reported totals.

    Anyone saying we’ll definitely know the result, even in Yolo County, by end of Day Wednesday, would be telling a fabrication… I expect a huge jump Tuesday, late, of ballots cast, received, and eventually… counted… but not by first thing Wednesday morning.

    If you haven’t voted (and are eligible), either do so, or watch… with no effect.

      1. Bill Marshall

        Alan… we all use acronyms, FWIW… particularly when we are familiar with the referent, and assume others are too…

        “VAC” = Voter Assistance Center (in everyone’s election notifications)

        “VBM” = Vote by Mail (ibid.) [formerly known a “AB” = Absentee ballots]

        “VMC” = Veterans Memorial Center (often used in City notifications, etc.)


  8. Ron Glick

    We will know by Wednesday morning. There are only two questions on the ballot so it isn’t going to be hard to count. The early vote by mail will be counted Tuesday night. With over 6 million votes already cast by the middle of last week its unlikely to take a long time to count up all of the votes.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Let’s see.

      When DJUSD had a one question on a ballot, how long did it take for final outcome to be known?  By noon the following day?

      You may be correct as to what the overall as to the “likely” outcome, but if it is close, as it was on the DJUSD measure, what many thought was true 2 days after, was proved false about a week later.  Just ask David, who kept lamenting the failure of the measure, and ‘analyzing’ why, it was determined it had passed.

  9. Keith Olsen

    L.A. Times shows deceptive photo of Larry Elder appearing to slap a woman with the title ““LAPD is investigating altercation involving Larry Elder at Venice homeless encampment”  when in fact it was another woman in a gorilla mask who accosted Elder.  This is how biased mainstream media has become.—2021-09-10T172159.205-2.jpg

    1. David Greenwald

      I didn’t want to comment on this, but this doesn’t look like a slap, it’s looks like a gesture of affection, everyone is smiling. The hand is static, no blur.

      1. Keith Olsen

        Oh please, are you serious?  Why would they post that photo on Twitter about a story about Elder getting attacked by woman in a gorilla mask?  And of all the photos they could’ve posted about Elder they chose that one?  Why not a photo of the woman in a gorilla mask throwing a projectile at Elder?


        1. Bill Marshall

          Well, at least you’ve reduced ‘attacked’ to ‘throwing a projectile’… wanna’ go for ‘throwing an egg”?  Did the egg actually hit anything other than the ground?

  10. Alan Miller

    Not to mention most people only read the headlines when skimming news – so they take in this deceptive headline as Elder being the perp.  No bias there.

    It’s OK, because he’s an evil Republican, right?  😐  Then ends justifies the means, right?  😐

    1. Keith Olsen

      Not to mention most people only read the headlines when skimming news – so they take in this deceptive headline as Elder being the perp. 

      Surely everyone will notice that it’s a gesture of affection because “The hand is static, no blur”.  


      1. David Greenwald

        Anyone who understands photography will understand that there is no way to capture the hand static like that unless you had your camera set to a very fast speed – but why would you have it set to that speed in a static situation? You can change the settings on the camera of course but probably not in time to catch a slap.

        What did the caption say btw, that’s what I wasn’t able to find.

        1. Keith Olsen

          Anyone who understands photography will understand that there is no way to capture the hand static like that unless you had your camera set to a very fast speed – but why would you have it set to that speed in a static situation?

          Ah yes, anyone looking at that photo will realize that immediately.

        2. Keith Olsen

          Now come on, as is stated inn the article above the LA Times updated the pic on Twitter after all the backlash.  So it appears that people took screen shots of the original tweet and reposted them.

        3. Alan Miller

          Ah yes, anyone looking at that photo will realize that immediately.

          Not in an era where “phone” and “camera” and the same device for 95% of the population.

          My favorite comment on this incident comes from LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva, a Democrat, who called this a hate crime and called this ‘Woke Privilidge’, explaining, “‘Woke privilege’ means a white woman can wear a gorilla mask and attack a black man without fear of being called a racist.”

          The Wall Street Journal had an article titled, “If Elder Were a Democrat: Without double standards, would the U.S. media have any standards at all?”


          Elder also said, “I’m not somebody who pulls out the race card the way Barack Obama does, the way Al Sharpton does, the way CNN does, the way Black Lives Matter does. Maybe it was just an idiot. Maybe it was just a fool. Maybe it was just someone who doesn’t like Larry Elder. All I know is: if I were a liberal and somebody wearing a gorilla mask who was a White woman threw an egg at me, the left would be screaming about systemic racism.”

        4. Keith Olsen

          Citing Alex Villanueva undermines your argument

          Do you actually disagree with Villanueva’s statement that “Woke privilege’ means a white woman can wear a gorilla mask and attack a black man without fear of being called a racist”?

          I mean here’s a perfect example by the LA Times coverage as to why Villanueva’s statement is correct.


          1. David Greenwald

            The quote cites his party ID as though somehow he’s on the left. The quote itself shows that’s a fraud.

          1. David Greenwald

            Both. Notice the use of the term woke – used as conservatives are using it. Woke was initially a term used by Black people to refer to a new consciousness around racial issues. But the term has been co-opted as a pejorative by the right. So why is Villanueva a purported Democrat using a term of the right? And why is it that the only time the right cares about racism when the supposed victim of it is one of their own? Cite one time that you have ever called out racism that didn’t either feature a Black Republican or a white?

          1. David Greenwald

            It seems to me that she was called out – you’ve been posting about it for like a week. I find it ironic that you love to point out the hypocrisy on the other side, but never acknowledge your own.

          1. David Greenwald

            That’s exactly my point – you are playing the EXACT SAME GAME. Just pointing out that you have NEVER called out anything racist and usually deny it is racist UNLESS it is a Black Republican or a white on the receiving end. That’s why I disagree with the substance of the comment – plenty of people are calling her a racist. It’s an objectively false claim.

        5. Keith Olsen

          Please show me any articles you have written where you called out racism against a black conservative.  If you have I’d like to see them.

          You weren’t even willing to admit that the LA Times used some deflective reporting with the photo used in their tweet, instead you tried to make excuses for it.

          I mean seriously, “The hand is static, no blur” and” and “Anyone who understands photography will understand that there is no way to capture the hand static like that unless you had your camera set to a very fast speed – but why would you have it set to that speed in a static situation?”

          1. David Greenwald

            So here’s my problem Keith. Someone does a bad prank – distasteful imagery no matter what she was thinking. But guess what it was EGGS. No one was killed. No one was really harmed. The right starts shouting racism, racism. All of a sudden, the right cares about racism? No, not really, they are just trying to point out hypocrisy that the left goes silent on a partisan issue. Shocking. But when the real stuff goes down – people die, massive disparities in wealth, education, incarceration rates – crickets or worse – abject defense of the status quo. So there you have it. To me, it’s just hypocrisy – the right doesn’t get the issue of racism and why and when it matters. All you’ve shown in the last week, is to what extent that’s true. And all Villanueva showed is to what extent he’s one of you.

        6. David Greenwald

          It’s not that hard to search for Keith Olsen and racism.  It pulls up 125 comments, I looked through them and all were arguing against something being racist.  Let’s see what you got.

        7. Keith Olsen

          I just reviewed your nearly 7000 approved comments, and did not find a single example.
          LOL, yeah, I believe you…
          Only 7000?  I would think it’s more like 50,000.
          Did you research all of my aliases, Barack, Growth Izzue, Rusty, Ols, etc.
          I can probably find some but it’s not worth my time?

        8. Keith Olsen

          The fact that you still haven’t pulled one up is telling.

          Yeah, it’s telling that you need to do better research.

          Also, looking up key words doesn’t always bring up what you’re looking for, there’s several different ways to make points using different words and phrases.

          Still waiting for you to point out an article where you called out racism against a black conservative.

          1. David Greenwald

            I never said I did. You on the other hand wrote: “I have called out racism against non conservatives on your blog in the past.” So far, without evidence.

        9. David Greenwald

          Keith – we can try this another way.  In the last five years – we will go back to January of 2016, call out a prominent incident that you think was racism involving the target being a non-conservative person of color.

        10. Keith Olsen

          You asked for an example, I gave you an example. Do you really want to go down the hitting the shuttlecock over the tennis net rathole again today?  I don’t, and I don’t think your readers do either.

          1. David Greenwald

            I asked for an example of something you thought was racist. You never used the term racist in your comment. So I was clarifying. I will point out that you never called it racist last year when it happened even in threads which discussed racism, and you didn’t call it racism here. So be very clear – do you think that the George Floyd death was in some way due to racism?

  11. Alan Miller

    – plenty of people are calling her a racist. It’s an objectively false claim.

    Larry Elder said she might not be a racist – he didn’t know – because he said he doesn’t play the race card.  Not knowing is an objectively true claim.  I have not so much heard people call her a racist as point out if the tables were turned (white women in gorilla mask throws egg at liberal black person) there would be an outpouring of calls of racism.  That’s all.

  12. Ron Oertel

    Someone does a bad prank – distasteful imagery no matter what she was thinking. But guess what it was EGGS.

    It was more than eggs.  She hit the guy (pretty hard) who subsequently confronted her.  After provoking him further, to which he did not respond.

    Then, a “tough guy” intervened on behalf of the female attacker.  Got right up into the guy’s face.  Then, another female attacker hit the guy (on behalf of the tough guy and egg-thrower/attacker).

    It was no “prank”. It was a dangerous situation.


  13. Ron Oertel

    It seems to me that she was called out – you’ve been posting about it for like a week. I find it ironic that you love to point out the hypocrisy on the other side, but never acknowledge your own.

    Is there a “side” to racism?

    For that matter, is there ever really a true “side”?  (Other than on blogs or in the political sphere, where “sides” get emphasized.)

    Why do I feel like quoting Rodney King, at the moment?

    1. Ron Oertel

      Also, is there ever a particular “color” that’s on the “giving” or “receiving” end of racism?

      I would argue that there’s not.

      I’d suggest some in-depth articles regarding what racism actually means, as well as “systemic racism”.

      And, can there be a black conservative, without engaging in “white supremacy” (according to one side of the political spectrum, at least). There used to be an insulting word regarding this type of thing, which comes to mind.

      If there ever is a (truly) honest conversation regarding any of this, I’d be interested. I do not believe that I’m beholden to any particular view.

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