OAKLAND — President Joe Biden resoundingly endorsed Gov. Gavin Newsom against a looming recall vote on Thursday, telegraphing that the White House could come to Newsom’s aid in the race’s critical final weeks.
The Biden administration had already gone on the record opposing the vote to oust Newsom. But Biden’s statement was on a different order of magnitude and came as the White House considers deploying Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris — or both — on Newsom’s behalf.
“Governor Newsom is leading California through unprecedented crises,” Biden said in a statement. “He is a key partner in fighting the pandemic and delivering economic relief to working families and helping us build our economy back better than ever. He’s taking on the climate crisis and standing up for the rights of women, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community. He knows how to get the job done because he’s been doing it. And to keep him on the job, registered California voters should vote no on the recall election by September 14 and keep California moving forward.”
A source familiar with White House planning said both Biden and Harris intend to take an active role in the campaign’s homestretch. That could include in-person appearances and social media support.
Assistance from Biden or Harris could help Newsom energize Democratic voters — a critical task as polls show Republicans are far more motivated to vote, potentially closing or erasing Democrats’ overwhelming registration advantage in deep-blue California.
It could also help lend national attention to race, boosting voter interest and increasing the flow of cash to Newsom — although the governor already has an overwhelming cash advantage over his would-be replacements.
Newsom’s campaign has already drawn on national figures like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who cut an ad urging Californians to reject the recall. But Biden and Harris would elevate Newsom’s effort to frame the election as a battle in the larger struggle for a progressive agenda.
The president in particular remains enormously popular among California Democrats. A recent poll from the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies found that the California electorate writ large approves of the president’s job performance by a 22-point margin. Among Democratic registered voters, that jumps to an overwhelming 76-point approval edge.
Harris’s poll numbers in California are not as favorable. But as a native Californian with a power base in San Francisco — and a woman of color, a critical California Democratic Party bloc — she would have the ability to excite Democrats.
County elections officials must mail every registered California voter a ballot by Monday, with Election Day itself falling on Sept. 14. Voters will answer two questions: whether to recall Newsom, and who should replace him.
If a majority of voters choose to recall Newsom, the top vote-getter among replacement candidates would become the next governor. The current poll-leader among Republicans is conservative talk show host Larry Elder.