A lot has changed in California since January. Coronavirus cases have been on a sustained decline, a majority of Californians have received at least one dose of vaccine, businesses are broadly reopening, life is returning to normal. This is great news for everything except the recall effort against Gov. Gavin Newsom.

In January, strict lockdown policies were in place as several hundred people died every day across the state and vaccines were trickling out.

People were rightly frustrated. According to the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, Newsom’s approval ratings among registered voters plummeted from 64% in September 2020 to just 46% in late January 2021.

Yet even then, in January 2021, just 36% of registered Californians said they would vote to recall Newsom.

Fast forward to the California of today: Things look a lot different. In addition to the previously mentioned progress, the state is on course to reopen fully just one month from now, curtail mask mandates and fully restore in-person education in the fall.

According to the IGS survey, Newsom’s approval ratings have rebounded somewhat from 46% in January to 52% in late April. Notably, though support for the recall remains fixed at 36%, the proportion of California voters who would vote against recall has increased from 45% to 49%.

This is not at all the political environment that resulted in the recall of Gov. Gray Davis in 2003. Amid the litany of challenges including the energy crisis, Davis’ approval ratings plunged to literally half that of Newsom’s.

It’s quite evident that the better things go in terms of the pandemic, the worse that is for the prospects of the recall.

When it comes to politics, memories are short. But clearly, many who were understandably and legitimately critical of Newsom in January have changed their minds in Newsom’s favor as things have improved.

Californians also appear to view Newsom’s handling of the pandemic favorably. In late January, 43% of Californians indicated Newsom’s overall handling of the pandemic has been “poor” or “very poor.” That has dropped to 35%.

The IGS poll also reveals that four prominent Republican candidates are generating little interest or support.

In fact, for Kevin Faulconer, John Cox, Doug Ose and Caitlyn Jenner, the IGS poll revealed more registered voters indicate they aren’t inclined to support them than state they would be inclined to support them.

In the case of Faulconer and Cox, just 22% of registered voters indicate they’d be inclined to support them. However, 47% said they were not inclined to support Faulconer and 49% said they were not inclined to support Cox.

Of course, a recall election would be many months out from here. It’s possible the recall campaign could gain ground. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that things can go south fast. But it will probably be an uphill battle given where things are now.

Absent some globally catastrophic significant mutation of the coronavirus that overcomes the vaccines or some other economically calamitous event, it’s at least for now hard to imagine the recall effort getting the energy it needs in the context of a California that’s increasingly resembling normality.

Do recall supporters have a message capable of breaking through despite this? That remains to be seen.


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