Should California recall its recall election?

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Gavin Newsom has run out the clock, even if he has to run again for his gubernatorial seat. A new poll from California shows Newsom’s approval ratings soaring on a wave of post-pandemic optimism, seemingly making the upcoming recall election little more than an academic exercise:

California’s rebound from the Covid-19 crisis is complicating the drive to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, with a strong majority of state voters now approving of his pandemic management and just 40 percent saying they would remove him, a new Public Policy Institute of California poll shows.

Californians have growing optimism about the state’s recovery as infection rates decline and a larger share of the state becomes fully vaccinated while a wider array of businesses open. A whopping 90 percent of likely voters said they overwhelmingly believe the worst of the crisis is behind the state, greater than the 74 percent who said that in March.

The Democratic governor now enjoys majority approval of his job performance — 54 percent of all likely voters — with a more robust 64 percent supporting his handling of the pandemic, the poll showed.

Apparently, most Californians don’t hold a grudge over Newsom’s incompetence throughout most of the pandemic. With the state’s COVID-19 cases dropping almost all the way down to the Y-axis, optimism has rebounded — and with it Newsom’s status as governor.

The PPIC poll’s crosstabs among likely recall voters shows Newsom’s newfound strength and few vulnerabilities at the moment. While Newsom now has a 54% approval rating, 57% would vote against the recall and only 40% would vote to give him the boot. Most of the recall support comes from the Inland Empire region (56/41), but the Central Valley’s even split (49/49) is the only area that doesn’t outright oppose recall. There isn’t a single ethnic demo favoring the recall, nor any age demo, income demo, or almost any demo other than Republicans and conservatives.

Part of the problem is that recall proponents haven’t made the sale that a recall would actually improve anything. Only 29% of likely voters think a recall would make “things” better, while 34% believe things would get worse and 28% think it wouldn’t make much difference at all. Perhaps those numbers would have been different in November 2020, but as Charles Barkley once remarked, “If ifs and buts were beer and nuts, we’d all have one hell of a party.”

Now, however, 61% of likely recall voters approve of Newsom’s handling of the pandemic. He even gets a 51/45 in the Inland Empire, the only region to support the recall. Other than among Republicans and conservatives and in the Central Valley (again, 49/49), Newsom gets majority support for his COVID-19 management in every single demographic.

Does Newsom deserve those ratings? Absolutely not, but this is the environment in which the recall will take place, and … it’s not looking good. At all. One has to wonder whether the recall proponents can recall their recall at this point.