(This article is part of the California Today newsletter. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox.)
The sun was shining on the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum on Wednesday morning, as a parade of local elected leaders offered support and praised Gov. Gavin Newsom for his handling of the pandemic.
Oakland’s mayor, Libby Schaaf, said she frequently heard from her counterparts in other cities “how lucky we are in California” to have Mr. Newsom, who has “hustled” to speed up vaccinations.
Nancy Skinner, the state senator who represents the area, said that “we can thank the governor,” for the recent significant decline in coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations. She was unequivocal that the stay-at-home orders, which Mr. Newsom abruptly lifted last week, were the reason the state’s terrifying winter surge had been brought to heel.
They were there, alongside Mr. Newsom, to announce that the Biden-Harris administration had stepped in to help open two new mass vaccination sites in California — one at the Coliseum and one at Cal State Los Angeles — in addition to the ones already up and running across the state.
And none of it was a moment too soon, since Mr. Newsom appears to be facing the increasingly likely prospect of a recall election.
“I went from thinking it’s a possibility to a probability,” said Mark Baldassare, president and chief executive of the Public Policy Institute of California.
The institute this week released its January statewide survey, which found that most Californians (52 percent of likely voters) approve of the job the governor’s doing.
While that’s still above Mr. Newsom’s pre-pandemic approval rating of 49 percent among likely voters in January 2020, it is down pretty significantly from a peak in May, when 64 percent of likely voters said they approved of his work.
Unsurprisingly, there was a big difference between Democrats and Republicans: More than 70 percent of Democrats approved of the job Mr. Newsom is doing, compared with just 16 percent of Republicans.
Another poll released this week, from the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, found that 46 percent of registered voters approve of the governor’s performance. That poll showed another big drop, this time from September, when according to the Berkeley Institute’s survey, 64 percent of registered voters approved of his performance.
“These results should provide a strong warning to the governor,” the Berkeley Institute’s co-director, Eric Schickler, said in a statement.
To qualify for a 2021 special election, recall proponents have to get roughly 1.5 million voters’ signatures. As Mr. Baldassare pointed out, eight of 10 Republican voters said they disapproved of Mr. Newsom’s job performance, and there are more than five million registered Republicans in the state.
A judge also extended the signature-gathering deadline from November to March 17 because of the pandemic, which gives proponents more time to raise money and harness what the Public Policy Institute survey found is particular dissatisfaction with the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine.
But, of course, as we’ve seen over and over again in the pandemic, things can change quickly. Every day, thousands more Californians get inoculated.
(Read more about how California’s dynamic with Washington shifted on Jan. 20.)
There’s one more big difference between last year and this year, Mr. Baldassare said: We have a president whose handling of the pandemic is approved of by 70 percent of California voters.
“And the vice president is from what state?” Mr. Baldassare asked, referring to California’s own Vice President Kamala Harris. “The question is whether the governor is really going to be able to take advantage.”
Almost on cue, Mr. Newsom on Wednesday unveiled the mass vaccination partnership with the Biden administration.
In any case, Mr. Baldassare noted that the dynamics of the Republican Party were hardly settled, so any candidate, such as the highest profile contender so far, San Diego’s former mayor, Kevin Faulkner, will have to answer questions about their support of former President Donald Trump.
Furthermore, Mr. Baldassare said that subjecting the state to a costly and consuming recall fight could backfire; polling suggests that — Democratic, Republican or independent — there may simply not be enough votes. (As of January, anyway.)
“You can’t win a recall with just Republican votes,” he said.
Explore this detailed map of how Los Angeles, Orange and San Francisco Counties voted in the 2020 presidential election — and how that changed from 2016. (The New York Times)
Chamath Paliyhapitiya, a tech investor and part-owner of the Warriors who stoked speculation that he’d make a run for governor, said he’s not actually going to run. “Let’s be really honest. I’m not ready to do any of that,” he said on his podcast. (CNBC)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement calling Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, “cowardly” and referred to him as “McCarthy (Q-CA).” (The Hill)
Read more about how, in the absence of top leadership, Republicans like Mr. McCarthy are being criticized for letting the party’s more extremist wing flex its power. (The New York Times)
Here’s what else to know today
Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and other major automakers said they would no longer oppose California’s stricter fuel-economy standards. The decision was widely expected, but the shift signals that the industry is ready to work with President Biden on his biggest effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (The New York Times)
On Wednesday, San Francisco city officials sued the public school board in an unusual move to push the district to come up with a plan to reopen schools. (The New York Times)
If you missed it, catch up on the debate over reopening California schools. (The New York Times)
The California Supreme Court declined to hear a union-backed legal challenge to Proposition 22, dealing a blow to efforts to invalidate the ballot measure by ruling it unconstitutional. (The San Francisco Chronicle)
Refresh your memory about Proposition 22. (The New York Times)
“It’s forced. They don’t play in Oakland anymore. They left.” The artist who designed the Warriors’ “The Town” gear has some thoughts on the team wearing “Oakland Forever” jerseys as they play in the shadow of Salesforce Tower. (SFGate)
And Finally …
Netflix dominated in a year during which almost every film in contention has been released online. Three women were nominated for best director, a first.
“I May Destroy You,” which my colleague James Poniewozik described as “one of the most stunning narrative feats not just of the year but maybe the last decade,” got exactly zero nods while “Emily in Paris” got two?
Anyway, the ceremony — set to be hosted bi-coastally by Amy Poehler from Los Angeles and Tina Fey from New York — is planned for Feb. 28.
California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: [email protected]. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.
Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.