UPDATE, 7:41 PM PT: President Joe Biden helped Gavin Newsom finish up his anti-recall campaign on Monday, as both evoked Donald Trump in their closing arguments as a warning for the state should Newsom be ousted and radio talk host Larry Elder be selected as the next governor.
Biden called Elder a “clone of Donald Trump,” while Newsom said that “Trump is on the ballot in California.”
“We may have defeated Donald Trump but we have defeated Trumpism,” Newsom said at the evening rally at Long Beach City College, with about 650 people attending.
Newsom’s campaign is betting that the specter of Trump is a motivating factor for voters, and Elder’s entry into the race gave them an opportunity . Elder backed Trump in the 2016 election.
Biden fought off a cough and hoarse voice as he told the rally that “the eyes of the nation are on California because the decision you are going to make is going to reverberate around the nation and quite frankly around the world.”
Biden compared Elder to governors in red states who are opposed to mask and vaccine mandates.
“We need science, we need courage, we need leadership,” he said, praising Newsom for the way that he has handled the pandemic.
UPDATE, 4:38 PM PT: After observing the damage of the Caldor fire from Marine One, President Joe Biden appeared in Sacramento with Governor Gavin Newsom, a prelude to their campaign appearance later on Monday.
“These fires are blinking code red for our nation,” Biden said, as he blamed “decades of forest management decisions for creating dangerous conditions that have worsened by climate change.
The leading candidate to succeed him, radio talk show host Larry Elder, spent the day campaigning in Los Angeles and Orange County.
Meanwhile, Newsom got a late boost from Comcast, parent company of NBCUniversal, which contributed $25,000 to a fund set up to fight off the effort to oust him. Comcast joins other media companies and studios in backing Newsom, betting that he will survive the vote.
At one of Elder’s events in Monterey Park, he hit on some of his campaign themes, including the state’s regulations and high taxes. Noting that 1% pay half of the state’s income tax revenue, Elder said, “So when a wealthy person leaves, he or she is bringing a tremendous tax burden away from us and to other states,” he said.
While those arguments have long been themes among Republicans, Elder’s campaign added a late-in-the-campaign twist, where he appeared at a press conference with Rose McGowan who, in addition to endorsing him, made claims about Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Governor Gavin Newsom’s wife. McGowan had gone public with sexual assault allegations against Weinstein in 2017, and claims that Siebel Newsom called her afterward and said, “What can Boies Schiller do to make you happy?” That is a reference to the law firm that once represented Weinstein.
Siebel Newsom’s spokesperson released a statement calling the allegations a “complete fabrication.” “It’s disappointing but not surprising to see political opponents launch these false attacks just days before the election. Their limited correspondence has been strictly as fellow survivors of sexual assault and in Jennifer’s former capacity leading the Representation Project, an organization that fights limiting gender stereotypes and norms.”
Elder also got some celebrity support with an endorsement from actor Jon Voight, who taped a Twitter message.
— Jon Voight (@jonvoight) September 13, 2021
Elder also has suggested that the results of the election may be suspect, taking a page from Donald Trump’s playbook in casting doubt on the integrity of the electoral results. Elder told reporters last week that “there might very well be shenanigans,” and said that they were prepared to file lawsuits. Trump himself issued a statement in which he said, “Does anybody really believe the California Recall election isn’t rigged?”
On Monday, Elder told NBC News’ Jacob Soboroff that “we all ought to be looking at election integrity, no matter if you are a Democrat, an independent or a Republican.” But Elder did not say whether he would accept the results of the vote whether he wins or loses. His campaign and supporters have even set up a website to petition the state legislature to investigate the results, even though votes have yet to be counted.
The attacks on the election as potentially fraudulent, even before votes are counted, drew a response from Ron Nehring, the former chairman of the California Republican Party.
He wrote on Twitter on Monday, “I don’t know what tomorrow’s results will be, but just because the election is held by mail does not mean it’s fraudulent, or any more likely to be fraudulent than an election with in-person voting.”
“This pattern of whining any election we don’t win must be fraudulent is both bad politics, and bad policy,” he added. “Again, I don’t know what the results will be, but accusations of fraud need to be based on evidence.”
Newsom’s campaign has focused on Elder’s vow to roll back state mask and vaccine mandates, convinced that voters ultimately back his efforts to control the virus. A pro-Newsom ad that debuted last week featured former President Barack Obama, warning that “your vote could be the difference between protecting our kids and putting them at risk.” The spot also featured a picture of Elder giving the “thumbs up” sign along with Donald Trump, who remains unpopular in the state.
The recall itself has its origins in disenchantment with Newsom’s handling to the Covid epidemic, particularly when he went to a dinner party at the posh restaurant French Laundry even though the state’s residents were being advised to socially distance and avoid large gatherings. Newsom later called it a mistake.
Polls in early August showed a tightening race, and a number of Democrats feared a repeat of 2003, when Gray Davis was ousted from office in favor of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and that Newsom would fall victim to voter disenchantment over a host of issues. But as ballots were mailed out to all of the state’s registered voters and awareness of the recall increased, Newsom opened up a larger lead.
Biden will first travel to Sacramento, where he will be taken to survey the damage from the massive Caldor fire.
More to come.