Two big trends explain how Gavin Newsom easily defeated the recall
5 min read
fairly easy
Big trends in California and in the Republican Party helped Gavin Newsom avoid the fate of Gray Davis in recall elections.
WASHINGTON — With about 70 percent of the projected vote counted, 63.9 percent of Californians voted against recalling Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, while 36.1 percent voted for it — almost identical to Joe Biden's 63 percent-34 percent win in the state in 2020.

So how did Newsom do it, especially compared with the successful gubernatorial recall from 2003?

One, California is much more Democratic — and less Republican — than it was 18 years ago, when voters ousted Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and replaced him with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In 2003, California had 15 million registered voters. Of those, 6.7 million of them were registered Democrats (43.7 percent) and 5.4 million were registered Republicans (35.3 percent), with the rest independent or other.

Now, California has 22 million registered voters, with 10.3 million of them Democrats (46.5 percent) and 5.3 million of them Republican (24.0 percent).

That's right: Today there are 7 million more registered voters in California than there were back in 2003, but the number of Republicans has declined since then.

Another way to view this trend is by looking at the vote totals from just Orange County, which launched the political careers of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Orange County Results 2002-2004

2002 Governor's race: Bill Simon (R) 57.5%, Gray Davis (D) 34.7%

2003 Recall: Yes 73.4%, No 26.6%

2004 Presidential: George W. Bush (R) 59.7%, John Kerry 39.0%

Orange County Results 2018-2021

2018 Governor's race: Newsom (D) 50.1%, John Cox (R) 49.9%

2020 Presidential: Joe Biden (D) 53.5%, Donald Trump (R) 44.4%

2021 Recall (so far): No 52.6%, Yes 47.4%

The second big reason that Newsom won has been the change inside the Republican Party over the last 18 years, where Donald Trump is certainly no Ronald Reagan and where Larry Elder was no Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Per the NBC News exit poll of last night's race, 34 percent of all voters said they had a favorable view of Elder, versus 50 percent who had a…
Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Ben Kamisar
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