With 57 days to go until the election and with the official list of replacement candidates now complete, it’s safe to say that the 2021 California gubernatorial recall bears no resemblance whatsoever to its 2003 predecessor.
In 2003, then-incumbent Democratic Gov. Gray Davis’ approval ratings were in the 20s and 30s. In 2021, incumbent Gov. Gavin Newsom’s approval is in the 50s.
In 2003, the biggest celebrity running to replace Davis was Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 2021, the biggest celebrity is Caitlyn Jenner, who has been shooting a “Celebrity Big Brother” reality show overseas in Australia instead of campaigning for governor.
In 2003, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante was a prominent Democrat running to replace Davis. In 2021, of the eight Democrats on the official list of candidates, none is a current or former elected official.
In 2003, the other candidates running included child actor Gary Coleman, Arianna Huffington, the late Larry Flynt, and former Major League Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth. In 2021, the other candidates include former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, 2018 GOP gubernatorial nominee John Cox, former Rep. Doug Ose — as well as real-estate YouTuber Kevin Paffrath and L.A. billboard queen Angelyne, who also ran in 2003.
And maybe most strikingly of all, the 2003 California gubernatorial recall was the marquee contest that year in the country, with it dominating the nation’s political news. By contrast, the 2021 race has been a relative snoozer, with it being overshadowed by rising Covid-19 cases, heat waves, the upcoming Olympics — and even New York’s mayoral race and Virginia’s gubernatorial contest.
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Now that lack of attention could help depress Democratic turnout, which is how Republicans could defeat Newsom in this Dem-dominated state.
But more than anything else, the lack of interest just shows how strong Newsom looks right now.