CBS News projects Newsom survived recall effort and will remain in office

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Top takeaways from the California recall elec...

CBS News projects that the "no" vote will win the recall election, meaning Governor Gavin Newsom will remain in office. Newsom avoided an upset loss that would have sent Democrats scrambling ahead of the 2021 gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia, as well as the 2022 midterm elections.

Less than one hour after polls closed, Newsom addressed supporters.

"'No' is not the only thing that was expressed tonight," he said. "I want to focus on what we said 'yes' to as a state. We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines. We said yes to ending this pandemic. We said yes to people's right to vote without fear of fake fraud or voter suppression."

The "no" vote won out with with most demographic groups: Majorities of both men and women, White and non-White voters, and voters of all age groups all voted against the recall. 

This was the sixth recall attempt against Newsom, but the first to reach the threshold of signatures needed to trigger an election. The recall began in February 2020, when a group called the California Patriot Coalition aimed to remove Newsom over his policies on COVID-19, homelessness, immigration and the state's taxes and affordability.

The recall effort really took off after Newsom was spotted dining inside an upscale Napa Valley restaurant while his lockdowns on indoor dining were in place. 

The nation's most populous state was first to order statewide shutdowns at the onset of the pandemic, and Newsom was first to require vaccine and mask mandates for health care workers and teachers.

In the closing weeks of the campaign, Newsom and Democrats focused on his response to COVID-19 as well as national issues like threats to women's rights in the wake of Texas' abortion law

Exit polling indicated COVID-19 was the main issue voters cared about: while Newsom's handling of the disease galvanized the recall movement, voters ultimately approved of Newsom's decisions in addressing it, and he was able to capitalize on that in the closing weeks of the race. Roughly 30% of voters said COVID-19 is the most important issue facing California, followed by about a quarter who picked homelessness. The economy, wildfires and crime rounded out the top 5 issues.

For those voting "no" on the recall (keeping Gavin Newsom as governor), the coronavirus is the issue they see as the most important facing their state. For those voting "yes" on the recall (removing Newsom as governor), the economy and homelessness are the most important for them. Proponents of the effort to recall Newsom have been critical of Newsom's COVID policies, mostly arguing that they are too strict.

National Democrats were brought in to support Newsom throughout the race. Former President Barack Obama and Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren all cut advertisements against the recall. Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris both headlined rallies for Newsom in the weeks before the election. The Democratic Governors Association spent more than $6 million overall to beat the recall.

Mr. Biden reminded voters here that the outcome would have implications beyond the state's borders, saying, "the eyes of the nation are on California. Because the decision you're about to make isn't going to just going to have a huge impact on California, it's going to reverberate around the nation." 

A total of 46 candidates were on the replacement ballot, including Republican talk show host Larry Elder, who led candidates in polling since entering the race in mid-July. Newsom and Democrats made him the de-facto "face" of the recall, and pointed to his comments about COVID-19 and past guests who shared disinformation on his radio show.

Elder had previously suggested there could be "shenanigans" and widespread voter fraud in the recall election, and claimed his campaign is ready to sue.

"I believe that so many people are going to vote to recall him, there won't be any question about the outcome of this election," he told CBS News on Sunday.

But Elder's campaign website links to a separate website for people to report allegations of fraud and baselessly claims that "statistical analyses" used to detect fraud already found that the recall would be defeated before any votes were counted.

Although exit polls showed voters on Tuesday had a net unfavorable opinion of Larry Elder, he appeared to be popular among the GOP. Exit polls showed 3 in 4 Republicans and conservatives view Elder favorably, as do nearly half of independents casting their vote on the recall.

California Governor Gavin Newsom addresses reporters after beating back the recall that aimed to remove him from office at the John L. Burton California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento, California, on Tuesday, September 14, 2021. Rich Pedroncelli / AP
 

Elder says "we recognize we lost the battle" but "stay tuned"

Watch: Larry Elder concedes California recall...

Larry Elder, who had emerged as the frontrunner challenger to Newsom, said Tuesday night that "we recognize we lost the battle but we are certainly going to win the war." He added later "stay tuned." 

Elder said his campaign forced Newsom to "pay attention to the things they should've paid attention to two years ago." 

Elder also railed against the media coverage, saying "we know what the real problems are."

"We believe in hope, true hope, true unity," Elder said. "We don't divide by race. We don't divide by gender. We don't divide by sexual orientation. We don't divide by ethnicity. We don't divide by religion. We unite."

By Caroline Linton
 

What the exit polls tell us about the race

Most Californians voting in the recall election said they approve of the job Newsom is doing as governor, and those who do overwhelmingly voted "no" on the vote to remove Governor Newsom from office. More than half of voters in this election say they feel Newsom is "in touch" with the needs and concerns of Californians. 

The "no" vote won out with most demographic groups: currently the exit poll shows that majorities of both men and women, voters of all age groups, and majorities of White, Black, Asian and Latino voters all voting against the recall.

Republicans overwhelmingly voted to recall the Democratic governor, and Democrats voted to keep him in office. Independents turned up in higher percentages than they did in 2020, they were older this time around, and they are split on the issue of recall (Joe Biden won among California independents in 2020). But current estimates show that Republican turnout is down slightly, and not enough to make up for the overwhelming "no'' vote among Democrats, who make up the largest plurality of voters.

The groups that voted to recall Newsom closely match the Republican coalition that voted for Donald Trump in 2020: Most Republicans, conservatives, White voters without college degrees and voters in the inland valley region of the state voted to oust the sitting governor, but they were outvoted by Democrats, liberals and moderates, non-White voters, White voters with college degrees, and voters from the coastal regions of the state.

The coronavirus looms large as the most important issue to voters overall, and the voters who turned out largely approve of how Newsom has handled the issue - most either think his policies are about right or want even stricter measures - while just a third say they are too strict. Most who turned out also support mandatory masking for students, and think getting vaccinated against the coronavirus is a public responsibility rather than a personal choice. These voters all largely chose to keep Newsom in office.

Voters are divided on their views of California's economy, and those who feel the economy is  either not so good or poor voted for recall, but not in equal measure: while 9  in 10 who say the economy is "poor" voted for recall, those who picked "not good"  are less in agreement (6 in 10 voted for recall.) On the other side, the voters who say the economy is good overwhelmingly voted to keep Newsom in office (nine in 10 did so.)

And though most California voters say that the cost of living in their state is unmanageable, not everyone took it out on the governor: Half still voted "no" when it came to removing Newsom from office.

This  CBS News California exit poll is a combination of in-person interviews with Election Day voters and phone interviews that measured the views of absentee by mail and early voters.  It was conducted by Edison Research on behalf of the National Election Pool. 

Exit poll percentages may have updated since this article was published.

— Jennifer De Pinto and Fred Backus  

 

Newsom speaks after polls close in recall election

Watch: Gavin Newsom addresses his supporters

Newsom spoke less than an hour after polls closed, saying he was "humbled" and "grateful" to those who rejected the recall.

"'No' is not the only thing that was expressed tonight," he said. "I want to focus on what we said 'yes' to as a state." He said the vote was about science, women's rights, diversity, inclusion, pluralism, economic justice, racial justice and environmental justice.

"I am humbled and grateful to the millions and millions of Californians that exercised their fundamental right to vote and express themselves so overwhelmingly by rejecting the division, by rejecting the cynicism, by rejecting so much of the negativity that's defined our politics in this country over the course of so many years," the governor said.

Newsom denounced division and emphasized unity, saying he has seen it across the state of California.

"One thing that's universal — everyone wants to be respected," he said. "Everyone wants to feel some connection to one another. We all, certainly in this pandemic, want to feel safe, protected. Those are universal values."

He then addressed a statement former President Trump put out earlier Tuesday in which he baselessly claimed the election was "rigged."

"Democracy is not a football," Newsom said. "You don't throw it around. It's more like an antique vase. You can drop it and smash it into a million pieces. And that's what we're capable of doing if we don't stand up and meet the moment and push back."

CBS News projected the Democratic governor would remain in office moments before Newsom spoke.

By sophie reardon
 

Exit polls: 3 in 4 Republicans and conservatives view Elder favorably

Voters on Tuesday have a net unfavorable opinion of Larry Elder, but the candidate does find favor with some of the groups that might be most important to his political future. According to exit polls, about 3 in 4 Republicans and conservatives view Elder favorably, as do nearly half of independents casting their vote on the recall. Overall, he is viewed favorably by more than 3 in 4 voters voting "yes" to recall Governor Newsom, and those who are "excited" rather than simply "optimistic" about removing the Governor are the most likely to view him favorably.

Jennifer De Pinto and Fred Backus  

 

More than half of voters in election said Newsom was "in touch" with needs of Californians

Most Californians voting in the recall election said they approve of the job Newsom is doing as governor, and those who did overwhelmingly voted "no" on the vote to remove Newsom from office. More than half of voters in this election said they felt Newsom was "in touch" with the needs and concerns of Californians. 

The "no" vote won out with with most demographic groups: Majorities of both men and women, White and non-White voters, and voters of all age groups all voted against the recall.

Jennifer De Pinto and Fred Backus  

 

CBS News projects that the "no" vote will win the recall election

CBS News projects that the "no" vote will win the recall election, meaning Governor Gavin Newsom will remain in office.

 

Exit polls: "No" vote on recall is getting the support of about 9 in 10 Democrats

Parties on the recall vote

The "no" on the recall is getting the support of about 9 in 10 Democrats (94% of them are voting "no"). It is only slightly lower than the share of Democratic support Biden received in California in 2020, which was 97%.

Nine in 10 Republicans are voting "yes" on the recall - similar to the percentage of the vote Donald Trump received in 2020. Although Republicans are making up a smaller share of the electorate relative to Democrats. 

Demographics 

Exit polls currently show the "no" vote is getting the backing of a number of demographic groups — 6 in 10 women and just over half men. Currently most White and non-White voters are voting "no" with Non-Whites more likely to be in the "no" camp. 

Exit polls show most liberals and moderates are backing "no" on the recall. 

The "yes" vote is getting the support of most conservatives, 9 in ten 2020 Trump voters and most of those who said Newsom's COVID policies were too strict. 

Coronavirus 

Those who picked the coronavirus as their top issue are overwhelmingly voting "no" on the recall. Those who picked the issue of the economy and crime are voting "yes".

Newsom job rating 

So far, Newsom gets a positive job rating from those voting in this recall election. About 55% of voters approve of the job Newsom is doing as governor, similar to the approval rating California voters give President Biden for his job performance. 

The recall effort appeared to gain more traction after images emerged of Newsom dining out maskless at an upscale restaurant seemingly defying the state's COVID restrictions.  Many called Newsom out of touch. 

Those voting in the recall election are more likely to say Newsom is in touch with the needs and concerns of Californians than out of touch. Although 9  in 10 those voting "yes" on the recall say Newsom is out of touch. 

Jennifer De Pinto and Fred Backus  

 

Polls have closed in California

At poll closing, CBS News can characterize the recall race as "lean" no (to not recall Newsom) based on our exit polls. This is not a projection. Race characterizations may update as the night goes on.

 

California voters most concerned about COVID pandemic, first exit polls show

COVID a top concern for California voters, ex...

The coronavirus pandemic is the most important issue for voters in California's recall election, early polling data shows. Other top matters of voters' minds include homelessness, the economy and wildfires. CBS News elections and surveys director Anthony Salvanto joins CBSN's "Red & Blue" with the latest poll results.

 

Who voted Tuesday?

Political Party

So far, Democrats outnumber Republicans in this electorate, which is not all that surprising for a blue state like California, although the gap between Democrats and Republicans is a bit narrower than it was in 2020, and the percentage of independents taking part in this election is about 10 points higher than in 2020.

Independents voting in the recall election are a bit older and more white compared to those independents that voted in 2020.These independents are more divided on Newsom's approach to handling the coronavirus - while four in 10 say this policies have been about right, a similar number say they have been too strict. 

Race 

Newsom made a late push to try and turnout Latino voters to vote "no" on the recall. At the moment, the share of the electorate that is Latino is a bit lower than it was in the 2020 race for president but higher than it was for the 2018 race for governor -a race Newsom won handily. 

Latinos are also somewhat divided on Newsom's handling of COVID - about as many say they have been too strict then say they are about right. 

Overall, this California electorate is racially a bit more White than it was in the 2020 presidential election. 

—  Jennifer De Pinto and Fred Backus 

 

California recall candidates court voters in faith communities

Role of churches in California recall

Many of the candidates in California's recall election took their campaigns to church. Governor Gavin Newsom and top GOP contender Larry Elder are among those using this strategy as a way to reach some of the state's more traditional voters. Faith Pinho, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, joins CBSN's "Red & Blue" hosts Elaine Quijano and Ed O'Keefe to discuss.

 

One-third of early voters view Elder favorably

Republican Larry Elder,  who has led in pre-election polls as the top choice to replace Newsom should he be recalled, is not especially popular with those voting in the recall election. He is viewed favorably by just about a third of voters who voted on whether or not to recall Newsom. More view him unfavorably.

Jennifer De Pinto and Fred Backus  

 

How Newsom's likability factors into California recall election

How Newsom's likability factors into recall

California Governor Gavin Newsom has relatively strong job approval ratings but isn't always considered likable. In the recall campaign, he's managed to shift the focus to Republican challenger Larry Elder. LA Times political columnist George Skelton joins CBSN's "Red and Blue" with more on how that factors into this election.

 

Votes cast in California gubernatorial recall election

Votes cast in California recall election

It's the final day for California voters to cast their ballots on whether or not to recall Governor Gavin Newsom. Major Garrett has the latest on the election.  

 

Issues important to California voters

According to CBS News early exit poll data, the coronavirus is the top issue on voters' minds in this election, roughly 30% of voters said it is the most important issue facing California, followed by about a quarter who pick homelessness. These issues come out ahead of the economy, wildfires and crime.

There are differences between those voting "no" on the recall and those voting "yes" on what they see as the biggest issue facing California.

For those voting "no" on the recall (keeping Gavin Newsom as governor), the coronavirus is the issue they see as the most important facing their state. For these voters, this issue ranks far ahead of any other issues — by roughly 20 points. More than  twice as many "no" voters than "yes" voters pick it as their top issue.

For those voting "yes" on the recall (removing Newsom as governor), the economy and homelessness are the most important for them, ahead of the coronavirus. Almost three times as many "yes" voters than "no" voters pick the economy as the most important issue facing California. Crime ranks higher as an issue for the "yes' voters than the "no" voters.

Those voting "no" on the recall are more likely than those voting "yes"  to see climate change as a "very serious" problem in California.

COVID-19: Newsom's policies

Proponents of the effort to recall Newsom have been critical of Newsom's COVID policies, mostly arguing that they are too strict.

About a third of voters who cast ballots in this election agree with that assessment, saying Newsom's COVID policies have been too strict, but more voters– nearly half of voters – say his policies have been about right.

COVID-19: Masks and vaccines 

There has been heated debate about children wearing masks in schools.  More than two-thirds of voters support California's requirement that students wear masks in schools.  And amid the debate over COVID vaccine mandates, a majority of voters in this election (about 6 in 10) view getting the vaccine as a public responsibility rather than a personal choice.

Most of those voting "no" on the recall support California's mask mandate for kids in school and view getting the COVID vaccine as a public responsibility. Most "yes' on the recall voters oppose the mask mandate for students and see getting the COVID vaccine as personal choice rather than a public responsibility. 

California's economy

Voters' opinions on the condition of California's economy are mixed — half think it's in good shape, but nearly as many say it's bad.

But a majority of voters do feel that the cost of living in the area where they live is unmanageable.

Those voting "yes" on the recall are far more negative about both the state economy and the cost of living. Voters who want Newsom recalled — who are three times as likely to say the economy is California's top issue — overwhelmingly say the state economy is either not so good or poor, and three in four say the cost of living in their area is unmanageable. Most voting "no" on recall have a far more positive assessment.

Voter intensity

Earlier this August, CBS News pre-election polling showed Republicans both more likely and more motivated to vote in this recall election.

But so far tonight, while most supporting the recall are optimistic about the prospect of removing Gavin Newsom from office, just 37% of "yes" voters say they are "excited" by the prospect. On the other side of the equation, there seems to be more urgency: 44% of voters opposing the recall attempt say they are "scared" by the possibility of Gavin Newsom being removed from office.

President Biden

President Biden campaigned for Newsom and the President remains a popular figure in California. More than half — about 56% — of California voters approve of the job he is doing as president.

Jennifer De Pinto and Fred Backus

 

"Polls don't vote, people vote," Newsom says on recall day

Governor Newsom urged residents to cast their ballots during his final campaign event in San Francisco on Tuesday, CBS San Francisco reported.

"Polls don't vote, people vote," Newsom said. "That's particularly true in an off year, off month, election and recall election… They designed this to catch us while we're sleeping. They designed this to get us off-guard."

By sophie reardon
 

What we know about early recall ballots so far

  • We're now up to 9 million ballots cast, as of Monday, September 13. That includes 8.7 million by mail — about two thirds of the number the day before Election Day 2020. Another 324,000 have been cast at early voting centers (predominantly in Los Angeles County).

  • At 9 million ballots, turnout has already matched the total votes in California's last gubernatorial recall, even without any Election Day votes or late-arriving ballots in yet.

  • Early ballots have broken 52% Democratic and 25% Republican in terms of party registration (via L2) — this early Democratic advantage is very much in line with expectations, given that Republicans are more likely to turn out on Election Day.

  • In terms of race/ethnicity, 59% of early ballots are from likely White voters — higher than their share among all registered voters — and 22% from likely Latino voters — significantly lower than their share among RVs.

  • Keep in mind that many more mail ballots will arrive in the coming days (for up to a week). Also, be prepared: if the first batch of votes counted tonight reflects early arriving mail ballots, they will likely be more Democratic (i.e., anti-recall) than later batches that include Election Day votes.

By Kabir Khanna
 

Newsom's senior adviser says there's "no scenario where we lose"

Governor Gavin Newsom's team is supremely confident it has enough "No on recall" votes to keep Newsom in the statehouse.

"There's no scenario where we lose tomorrow," said Sean Clegg, a senior adviser to Newsom, on Monday night. "We see the blue giant waking up. I don't see evidence of a red giant waking up in California."

Recently released public polling shows Californians want to keep Newsom in office by double digit margins. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans here, 2 to 1.

Multiple Republican campaigns told CBS News their private polling shows "Yes on recall" losing by margins in the high single digits or low double digits.

Newsom's team says its analysis of 8.3 million early votes has staked "No on recall" to an insurmountable lead.

"I don't see a scenario where were not talking about a victory for the governor and a complete rejection of this appalling partisan power grab," Clegg said.

Republican recall organizers pointed to the governor's stringent pandemic lockdowns and vaccine and mask mandates as reason for ousting him from office. But Newsom advisers argue the recent uptick in cases has made it clear to voters that those protocols were necessary.

Newsom's advisors said passage of the Texas abortion bill also animated California's Democratic base, as did invoking former President Trump's name who is lost by a wide margin here in 2020.

Major Garrett and Arden Farhi

 

Biden calls Elder a "clone of Trump"

In Long Beach on Monday night, flanked by state flags bearing the California grizzly bear, President Biden fought a persistent cough to lend his voice to Newsom's defense.  He repeatedly tied Newsom's top GOP opponent, Larry Elder to former President Trump.

"He's the clone of Donald Trump — can you imagine him being governor of this state," Mr. Biden asked the crowd of about 1,100. They replied, "No!"

He argued Newsom's handling of the pandemic and vaccine mandates has worked. Mr. Biden said that if Elder wins, California will get a climate-denying misogynist who supports the Texas abortion law recently upheld by the Supreme Court. 

Mr. Biden said California's decision will reverberate around the country and world.

Faint strains of protesters shouting "Recall Newsom" could be heard in the distance, though it's not clear whether Mr. Biden could hear the demonstrators.

Biden visits California to support Gavin News...
By Arden Farhi
 

Biden says Newsom has "led his state with poise and strong leadership"

President Biden toured wildfire damage with Newsom in Northern California on Monday. Mr. Biden said the state has every federal resource available, and praised Newsom's leadership. 

"The governor has led his state with poise and strong leadership," Mr. Biden said while also referring to Newsom as an "innovator" for long-term climate solutions.  

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