The good news for Californians is that the COVID lockdowns are being lifted, though some restrictions may still apply in deeply affected areas. As Ed Morrissey pointed out earlier this week, it was a bit of a “coinkydink” that Governor Gavin Newsom just happened to make that decision just as the total number of signatures on a petition to recall him from office was approaching the finish line. Amazingly, Ed wasn’t the only person to voice such suspicions. Members of the press were bold enough to ask Newsom if he was relenting simply to save his job. He responded by calling the allegation “complete, utter nonsense.” He’s a man of science, you see. (CBS Los Angeles)

Gov. Gavin Newsom insisted Monday that the decision to lift the regional stay-at-home order was based on scientific projections of future hospital demand, rather than the looming possibility of a recall campaign…

However, his Republican critics don’t see things the same way. Citing the recall campaign that’s gaining steam, California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson said bluntly that the decision to lift the regional stay-at-home order was an obvious ploy to counter the recall movement.

“This governor’s decisions have never been based on science. Him re-opening our state is not an attempt to help working Californians, but rather an attempt to counter the Recall Movement. It’s sad and pathetic,” Patterson tweeted.

Newsom insisted that there were no inconsistencies in his position. He cited a projection indicating that Southern California’s ICU capacity will reach 33.3% by Feb. 21. That’s a fairly remarkable turnaround they’re projecting when you consider that the region’s available ICU capacity is still currently listed at zero percent. So where is he getting this data showing that a major improvement in their numbers is just around the corner? We still don’t know. Every time reporters have asked him where his shifting figures are coming from he refuses to release the information.

California has turned out to be one of the hardest-hit states in the nation in terms of both hospitalizations and deaths from COVID. Like it or not, this is proof that the plans that were implemented have largely failed when compared to any number of other states. And almost none of the COVID rules were voted on by the state legislature. That means that if this debacle is a failure, then the blame for that failure lands squarely on the Governor’s shoulders and nobody else’s. As I say about so many elected officials these days, you wanted the job and now you’ve got it. Sink or swim, buddy.

If I had to find one argument to make in Newsom’s favor here about the “politics versus science” question it would be that I sort of doubt he’s all that worried about being removed from office. It’s true that his critics are closing in on collecting the 1.5 million signatures needed to get a recall effort on the ballot. But there’s a rather wide gulf between what it takes to get the proposal in front of the voters and what it takes to bring the effort over the finish line.

California is home to more than 39 million people. While the state is definitely blue, it’s not entirely devoid of Republicans. When Newsom defeated John Cox in the 2018 gubernatorial race, Cox received 4.7 million votes to Newsom’s 7.7 million. Finding 1.5 million people to sign a petition seeking to recall him really shouldn’t be all that hard, so it’s tough to interpret this as some sort of major sea change in Newsom’s support or the state’s political demographics in general. Most of the support for the recall effort, though probably not all of it, is arguably coming from people who didn’t like him to begin with.

Newsom is still managing to hold on to a 60% approval rating for his handling of jobs and the economy, though his handling of the pandemic isn’t seen quite as optimistically. That’s quite a contrast from Gray Davis, the only California governor to ever be recalled. His approval ratings were completely in the tank in 2003 and the GOP had a charismatic movie star champing at the bit to replace him. Neither of those things is true of Gavin Newsom in 2021. It would be an embarrassment to have to face a recall vote, but other politicians have survived worse. All I’m saying is that I wouldn’t get my hopes up about Newsom being removed from office in this fashion.