Republicans, outnumbering Democrats in California, needed a massive turnout in this week’s recall election to have any chance of ousting Governor Gavin Newsom. It didn’t happen.
Nearly 9.2 million votes were counted on Tuesday and an estimated 2.9 million were yet to be counted. This shows that overall turnout was about 55%, which was below the average for California’s midterm election and well below the 80% who voted in the 2020 presidential race.
Last year, then-President Donald Trump garnered more votes than any Republican presidential candidate in the state’s history—more than 6 million—but was defeated by Democrat Joe Biden, who collected more than 11 million.
Early voting in the recall contest suggested Republicans were highly motivated to remove Newsom in the rare, late-summer election. The party represented only 24% of registered voters, so the GOP needed a spirited turnout and a strong showing from conservative-leaning independents to reach the majority vote needed to oust Newsom.
Instead, Newsom is headed for around 64% support.
“Republicans would need such a dramatic turnout gap to hold the lead in this election that it was basically impossible with the land,” said Jessica Tronstein, chair of the political science department at the University of California, Merced.
This year, if trends persist as mail-in ballots arrive later, support for the recall will end with about 4.5 million votes, or about 37% of the total. In 2018, Republican John Cox received nearly 4.7 million votes, or 38%, in his massive loss to Newsom, indicating that GOP voters were no more excited than now.
Going into Tuesday’s election, Northern California’s Placer County is one place where pro-recall forces would have expected strong support. Democrats hold a nearly 2-to-1 registration edge across the state, but Republicans have a 10-point advantage in placers.
In the 2018 election, placer turnout was nearly 75% and Cox defeated Newsom by 18 percentage points. Turnout in the recall is approaching 52%, and there was only a two-point lead in support of ousting Newsom as the vote continues to come in.
In the one-time Republican stronghold of Orange County, an epicenter for Newsom’s resistance to COVID-19 restrictions, which helped drive the recall effort, voters were rejecting his removal by nearly 4 percentage points, showing incomplete returns.
Kern County had 55% turnout in 2018 and scored a 10-point victory for Trump in 2020. Recall turnout had dropped below 50%, and those in favor of Newsom’s removal were leading by a wide margin. There was a similar situation in Madera County, which, like Kern, is part of California’s vast Central Valley agricultural region, which depends on the GOP. Madeira polling was trending 10 points lower as compared to 2018.
Cox, who was among the candidates running to replace Newsom, was recalled, saying he had no explanation for what was shown by Republican and conservative voters. He said he was disappointed that more supporters of the recall did not turn up in the election, pointing to the state’s rampant homelessness crisis, rising crime rates and rising housing costs.
“It’s inexplicable to me,” Cox said.
“Either they have given up or become ill,” he speculated, suggesting that years of Election Day misery for the California Republican played a part in the GOP’s performance.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Gavin Newsom