Newsom’s winning recall strategy offers a playbook for Democrats in 2022

Newsom’s most effective strategy was not talking about how California’s economy has improved under his leadership or the long list of progressive policies he has signed into law. Instead, Newsom and his campaign relentlessly focused on Elder, casting him as extremist. And they emphasized that Newsom supported vaccination and mask-wearing requirements and other common-sense policies to reduce the spread of covid-19, much of which Elder opposed.

As the campaign progressed, Newsom seemed almost apologetic about his negative campaigning and has said he will run more on his record in the regularly scheduled gubernatorial election next year.

He has nothing to apologize for — and Democrats across the country should consider adopting his approach. Democrats are deeply invested in the idea that voters will reward them for creating the perfect child tax credit or jobs plan. But many policies, particularly on economic issues, are complicated and dry. People might not understand that they got a tax credit or forget about it when it comes time to vote.

Mask-wearing and vaccinations, on the other hand, are easy to understand. And Newsom’s covid policies demonstrated, in a clearer way than tax credits would, the governor’s broader values, which I think is what actually drives people’s votes. Newsom was essentially arguing that he is a rational, common-sense person who cares about saving people’s lives during a deadly pandemic, while Elder is an out-of-control ideologue.