Gavin Newsom is counting down the final days to the September 14, 2021 recall election. His fate as Governor of the State of California hangs in the balance. Right now, he needs laser beam-focused support for his campaign. It’s live-or-die.
Newsom needs to get out the vote in a state where anyone who isn’t a monetary contributor to ActBlue has concerns about his performance.
He has 46 challengers who want his job. If you play just a little game of six degrees of freedom, it means that almost every voter in the state has a good chance of knowing one of them well enough to consider voting “Yes” on question one on the recall ballot.
That means it’s time to call in the big guns to amplify the message. Campaign managers always tell you to stay on message, particularly if you are fighting for your political life in a recall election. You want allies who are bulldogs, tenacious about improving your image and degrading that of your competition.
Enter Vice President Kamala Harris, a black woman backing a white governor, both from the royal lineage of California’s San Francisco elite class — just the perfect thing in the calculus of politics to counter the threat of a black man, a Republican man from Los Angeles. It’s the polished Californians versus the ordinary Californios.
But perfect on paper isn’t effective in practice if your big gun goes off message.
And while stumping for Gavin Newsom on September 8th, Kamala Harris seemed to go very off message indeed.
Her speech veered sideways. She left the battle for her presumed friend’s survival and focused her attention on a Biden-Harris issue completely outside the State of California. The drumbeat of Harris’ speech turned instead to Texas and a supposed battle for women’s rights against Governor Greg Abbott being waged nationally.
VP Kamala Harris on Gov. Greg Abbott's comments from Tuesday:
“To arrogantly dismiss concerns about rape survivors, and to speak those words that were empty words, that were false words … that is not who we want in our leaders.” pic.twitter.com/9juO1dDhEW
— The Recount (@therecount) September 8, 2021
The Vice President’s choice of message was clearly meant to galvanize women — in particular, single-issue voter liberal women — to fight for the White House’s agenda
It is possible that this message somehow galvanizes San Leandro, California; but my political instinct says not.
Gavin Newsom needs to appeal to far more than just a single constituency, one likely to have voted by mail for him already, if he is to garner enough “no” votes on Question 1 of the recall ballot to keep his job.
I saw little in Harris’ delivery that crosses the boundaries to attract voters beyond those closely aligned to set aside their reservations about Newsom. In that sense, the speech failed the man she came to help. She may have left him even more isolated from hesitant voters after speaking than before.
If that was the intent of the political calculus, to reassure people who had already mailed in their ballots, and discourage hesitant Californians from going to the polls, that may have been an unwise move.
Street talk among ordinary Californians is not apathetic. People care about the consequences of COVID-19 on their lives. They wonder about the economy. They discuss the Democratic supermajority in Sacramento. It’s not idle apathy. It’s a grassroots movement, the harbinger of an earthquake, something Californians are renown for in the US political landscape.
My walkaway observation about Harris’ choice of topic of emphasis in her speech is that Governor Abbott is not under threat of losing his job in a week. Governor Newsom is.
My second observation is that Kamala Harris isn’t a Californian anymore. She is a maiden of the Beltway now.