Will California Gov. Gavin Newsom's massive airwaves advantage help him keep his job?

Voter enthusiasm matters more than fundraising in Gavin Newsom recall vote: Expert

CAGOP Chairwoman Jessica Patterson provides insight into the upcoming Gavin Newsom recall vote. 

Former President Obama is up on California airwaves starting Thursday, starring in a new ad on behalf of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is fighting to save his job in next week’s gubernatorial recall election 

"Hello Californians. You’ve got a big choice to make by Sept. 14. Gov Newsom has spent the past year and a half protecting California communities. Now Republicans are trying to recall him from office and overturn common-sense COVID safety measures for health care workers and school staff," Obama argues in the ad.

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And the former two-term president, who remains very popular among Democrats, charges that "your vote could be the difference between protecting our kids and putting them at risk, helping Californians recover or taking us backwards. Protect California by voting no on the Republican recall."

Elections are not decided solely on which side spends more money to run ads, but if they were, the embattled governor would keep his job steering the nation’s most populous state in a landslide in next week’s showdown.

Newsom has dramatically outraised the replacement candidates on the ballot, and he is dominating the ad wars in the closing days and weeks of the recall campaign. 

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Thanks to unusual campaign finance laws for recall elections – California treats the question of whether to remove the governor as a ballot issue, rather than a candidate race – Newsom can raise unlimited amounts of money as he fights to keep his job. 

And that's what he's been doing – hauling in and spending big bucks and lapping the leading GOP replacement candidates when it comes to fundraising. Newsom's massive advantage is allowing him to dominate the airwaves.

The governor's "Stop the Republican Recall" campaign has spent nearly $33 million this year to run TV, digital and radio ads – with the bulk of it being dished out since mid-July – according to AdImpact, a leading national ad buying firm. 

That's leagues ahead of 2018 Republican gubernatorial nominee John Cox, who has spent $7 million to run ads for his recall election campaign. And it’s also miles ahead of conservative talk radio host Larry Elder, the polling front-runner among the 46 replacement candidates on the recall ballot, who’s spent $4.8 million to run ads since launching his campaign in mid-July, according to figures from AdImpact.

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Voters are being asked two questions on the Newsom recall ballots. The first question is whether the governor should be removed from office. If more than 50% support removing Newsom, the second question offers a list of candidates running to replace the governor. If the governor is recalled, the candidate who wins the most votes on the second question – regardless of whether it’s a majority or just a small plurality – would succeed Newsom in steering California. 

Newsom's strategy is simple: In the very blue state of California – where he won election by 24 points over Cox in 2018 – he needs to get Democratic voters to cast their ballots, to make up for energized Republican voters hoping to oust the governor from office.

The ad by Obama follows one starring Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the runner up in the last two Democratic presidential nomination races and an extremely influential leader among progressives who also easily won the 2020 Democratic presidential primary in California.

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Sanders charged in his spot that that recall effort is "a bold-faced Republican power grab." Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, another 2020 candidate in the Democratic presidential primaries who along with Sanders is another popular and influential figure on the left, appeared in a commercial supporting Newsom earlier this summer.

California is a very large state with a whopping 16 media markets, including large and expensive ones in the Los Angeles and Bay Areas, as well as in San Diego and Sacramento.

"In California, the way to win a statewide campaign is TV, TV, and more TV," veteran California-based Democratic consultant Mike Trujillo told Fox News.

And he jokingly emphasized that "Newsom’s money advantage on TV is so massive he is on cable channels that have yet to be invented, with his ads pushing ‘No on the Recall.’"

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Newsom’s paid media advantage is part of that strategy — and it may be working.

Most public opinion polls conducted in July and August indicated that likely voters were divided on whether to recall Newsom. But the latest surveys suggest a majority of likely recall election voters support keeping the governor in office. 

Fifty-eight percent of likely voters questioned in a Suffolk University poll conducted Monday and Tuesday said they’d vote against removing the governor from office, with 41% saying they’d vote to recall Newsom.

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According to the latest figures from the California Secretary of State’s office, more than 28% of the state’s 22 million registered voters have already cast ballots in recall election. Ballots must by handed in or postmarked by the end of next Tuesday to count in the contest.

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