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Republicans in California are likely to face a stinging defeat on Tuesday as Democratic Gov Gavin Newsom appears on track to beat back a recall effort after Republicans failed to coalesce around an electable candidate.

The campaign to boot Mr Newsom began in earnest after the governor was caught at a restaurant with a lobbyist friend without a mask while also ordering restrictions in the earlier days of the Covid-19 pandemic. But conservative firebrand talk show host Larry Elder emerged at the front of a crowded pack, which some say killed any chance of Republicans beating Mr Newsom.

“Part of the challenge for Republicans for decades at this point is that none of them are provided a platform to build up statewide name ID and recognition,” said Jason Roe, a Republican consultant who previously worked for former Republican San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

Mr Faulconer is one of many candidates running, but he’s struggled to gain traction in the way Mr Elder has.

Mr Roe said a major difficulty for Republicans in the state is there just aren’t that many of them, making it difficult to build broad name recognition and raise a war chest sufficient to run for statewide office in California.

“For Kevin, it’s an uphill slog. Larry Elder’s got decades of conservative talk radio credentials, Republican activists know who he is, they know him, they at least know the name,” Mr Roe said. “He’s a conservative firebrand so, with the Republican base, he’s a known commodity and it doesn’t take long for him to kind of make the sale.”

But Mr Elder’s appeal among conservatives has often been limited outside of the party faithful.

“He’s a guy who has a loyal following based on his years as a talk radio person,” said Andrew Acosta, a Democratic consultant in California. “In the old days, one or two of these hits would have knocked him out.”

California gubernatorial candidate and former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer and his wife, Katherine Faulconer, arrive on a charter bus at a campaign stop to promote his “women’s empowerment plan” at MacArthur Park in Los Angeles Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. The Republican is among 46 candidates seeking to replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in the Sept. 14 recall election. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

(AP)

Similarly, Mr Acosta said it is not clear that Mr Faulconer would have raised the levels of money that Mr Elder did, and noted how devoted his supporters were.

“He’s a guy that has a loyal following based on his years as a talk radio person and it’s been hard to shake people off of him,” Mr Acosta said.

Garry South, a Democratic political consultant who worked for former Gov Gray Davis, noted that Republicans today make up a smaller segment of the lectorate than when Arnold Schwarzenegger beat Mr Davis in his own recall election, making the GOP effort a tough climb from the start.

“Republicans can be so enthused they all get hypertension,” Mr South said, adding that no amount of Republican excitement could overcome the fact Republicans make up just a quarter of the electorate.

Mr South added that the California GOP made a strategic mistake by not endorsing Mr Faulconer.

“They would have been better off to bite the bullet, endorse Faulconer, put some money behind him,” he said. “They basically chickened out.”

But Mike Madrid, who previously worked on Latino outreach for California Republicans and co-founded the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, said the circumstances of the state are also very different from the era of Mr Schwarzenegger’s victory.

“But even then, Schwarzenegger was getting the majority of the Latino vote,” he said, adding that Mr Davis’ approval levels were in the 20s when Mr Schwarzenegger beat Mr Davis because of rolling blackouts from an energy crisis, an unpopular car tax and a budget deficit. Comparatively, Mr Newsom has a budget surplus.

“Gavin Newsom’s never been anywhere near that range of support levels,” Mr Madrid said, adding that he didn’t think the GOP was more about messaging than mounting a serious bid.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a rally against the California gubernatorial recall election on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Sun Valley, Calif.

(AP)

“It’s in the business of righteous indignation,” he said. “It’s just trying to find a mouthpiece for its anger.”

Mr Madrid pointed to Republicans peddling ideas about voter fraud, which former president Donald Trump repeated on Monday.

“They can’t believe they actually lost because they’re so busy consuming their own nonsense and channeling back to themselves that they’re no longer trying to speak beyond their base,” he said.

On Monday, the day before the recall, as if to bolster the point, Mr Trump released a statement decrying the California election as rigged.

“Does anybody really believe the California Recall Election isn’t rigged,” Mr Trump said. “Millions and millions of Mail-In Ballots will make this just another giant Election Scam, no different, but less blatant, than the 2020 Presidential Election Scam!”


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