Back in April, near the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, I wrote a piece with this headline: “Gavin Newsom may be the most underrated governor in the country right now.”
Newsom had acted quickly to issue a stay-at-home order for his state – he was the first governor in the country to do so – and, despite the Golden State’s massive size and population, it appeared to be weathering the Covid-19 crisis relatively well.
His handling of the coronavirus was already leading some people to speculate that it might well be the crown jewel in his resume when he eventually (and inevitably) ran for president.
Eight months later, Newsom’s political fortunes have dipped drastically – badly damaged by his decision last month to attend a birthday party for a friend (and lobbyist) at the famed French Laundry restaurant that, at best, skirted the very coronavirus practices he had recommended all Californians follow.
“I made a bad mistake,” Newsom told reporters shortly after the incident came to light. “I should have stood up and … drove back to my house. The spirit of what I’m preaching all the time was contradicted. I need to preach and practice, not just preach.”
Newsom hasn’t been able to put the episode behind him. And despite the early success in California of mitigating the virus, the state’s situation has worsened in recent weeks – forcing Newsom to reinstitute stay-at-home orders for much of the population.
And now comes news that an effort to recall Newsom next year is picking up speed – and supporters. This, from The Associated Press, is worrisome for Newsom:
“Recall organizers say they have collected more than half the nearly 1.5 million petition signatures needed to place the recall on the ballot, and they have until mid-March to hit the required threshold.”
(Almost two decades ago, California Democratic Gov. Gray Davis was recalled by the state’s voters, creating an opening that Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped into.)
Add this to all of that: Newsom must appoint someone to Kamala Harris’ Senate seat and pick a replacement for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is President-elect Joe Biden’s choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services.
Newsom is coming under intense pressure from virtually every Democratic interest group to pick their preferred candidate – and has said publicly he is dreading the decision.
So, yeah. A lot going on. And none of it good.
The Point: 2021 is not going to be a fun year to be Gavin Newsom. Not at all.