Column: Possible GOP recall approval poses risk to party and candidates
The next drama in the campaign to recall Governor Gavin Newsom could come on Saturday, when the California Republican Party considers backing a replacement candidate.
However, this session could prove to be anti-climax.
Perhaps the key moment in the intra-party dispute took place two weeks ago. It was then that a decision to lower the approval vote threshold – apparently in favor of former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer – was overturned amid divisions within the party and charges of skulduggery.
Party leaders appear to have backed down by pushing for approval, at least publicly. As momentum built against support for a single candidate, Faulconer’s campaign manager Stephen Puetz agreed with other party members that an endorsement could divide the GOP, according to Politico.
An endorsement could result in considerable resources from the party behind the selected candidate. What this could mean in terms of votes is far from certain. But if that happens, later reading tea leaves could be made easier by a study published in 2016.
A group of political scientists – including Thad Kousser of UC San Diego – studied the impact of party support. They sought to isolate the effect of Democratic Party endorsements in the early years of California’s “first two” primaries, which send the two candidates with the most votes to the general election, regardless of party affiliation.
Keep in mind that a recall and replacement candidate election is a different animal than a typical primary. But some of the general conclusions might apply, according to an analysis of the study by the Public Policy Institute of California.
The document found that approved applicants won almost 90 percent of the time, but researchers made it clear that this was misleading. The candidates who got the go-ahead were often the best funded, the most experienced and had better political connections than the others.
“Parties want to win, so they tend to support winners,” PPIC said.
But the study focused on how support affected candidates with similar political attributes and found that it meant a voting advantage for the same party of around 8 percentage points.
This “would translate to 3-4 points among all applicants,” said PPIC.
Hence the newspaper’s title: “Kingmakers or Cheerleaders? Party power and the causal effects of endorsements.
If a GOP endorsement had an impact like this, it could be significant.
But a movement of approval comes up against obstacles. It takes at least 60 percent of party delegates to agree on an endorsement. It is a difficult threshold to reach. Two weeks ago, the effort to lower the bar to 50 percent was scuttled. Meanwhile, party leaders agreed that delegates should be allowed to vote “no approval.”
Recall that the replacement candidate John Cox, the businessman of Rancho Santa Fe, claimed that Faulconer’s supporters were trying to “rig” the approval.
California GOP President Jessica Millan Patterson had previously supported the idea of approving, but then said it was up to delegates to decide, according to reports.
Some party members have expressed concern that an endorsement could benefit Newsom by dampening the enthusiasm of voters backing other candidates. A strategist from the main recall committee, Rescue California, also cautioned against this.
“If they approve, then it ends up being someone who comes in fourth or fifth, that’s not going to help them. It’s going to sound silly, ”campaign manager Anne Dunsmore said last month.
Most recent polls have unionized radio talk show host Larry Elder with a comfortable lead, but all polls show a large percentage of voters are undecided on the replacement candidates.
Meanwhile, a handful of polls show growing support for Newsom’s recall, but just enough to remove him. However, a SurveyUSA poll conducted for The San Diego Union-Tribune and 10News Monday through Wednesday had the winning recall with 51%, with 40% indicating support to keep it going.
Some supporters of the recall say the momentum is in their favor, but it could be threatened by a divisive battle over approval.
Meanwhile, the Newsom administration faces great challenges, from forest fires to water and electricity shortages to an increase in COVID-19 cases.
The September 14 election poses two questions to voters: Should Newsom be removed from office? Who should replace him? The recall needs a majority to be successful, and if that happens, the candidate with the most votes wins.
Given the field of 46 candidates, including a handful of senior Republicans, analysts say someone could win with maybe 20 to 30 percent of the vote.
There is a saying so often used during campaigns that it is sometimes said with a smirk: it’s all about participation. Like most clichés, there is some truth to it, perhaps even more to the recall election.
Polls show a glaring lack of enthusiasm among Democrats, and a significant number at the moment say they have no intention of voting or are unsure if they will. Conversely, polls suggest Republicans are loaded and will come out en masse.
This alarms the activists of the Democratic Party. Myra Coble, a Democrat from Fresno, told The Associated Press that three months ago she was convinced Newsom could not be recalled. Now she is volunteering with the local party to try to make sure Democrats know the recall threat is real.
“Our fear is that in this election the Republicans will show up and the Democrats will be complacent because they think it can’t happen,” she said.
Although the election is only six weeks away, there is still a long way to go. Some of the main replacement contenders have spent a fair amount of money so far, but they’ve also put some in reserve for running.
Newsom and his allies have raised more than $ 51 million to fight the recall attempt, more than double of all the major Republican candidates and pro-recall committees combined, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The democratic and organized playground game is booming. For example, United Teachers of Los Angeles plans to hold its launch rally on Saturday “to push back anti-union recall.”
Each registered voter in California will receive a mail-in ballot for the recall election beginning August 16. This is when the campaign will really take off.