Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told CNN that current Gov. Gavin Newsom faces a “very dangerous” political situation in his impending recall election.
“There’s millions of people out there that are dissatisfied, dissatisfied with the way the corona was handled, dissatisfied with the fires, dissatisfied with the blackouts,” Schwarzenegger said.
Schwarzenegger spoke to CNN’s chief political correspondent Dana Bash in an interview for her podcast “Total Recall: California Political Circus” examining the history of the 2003 recall when California voters ousted former Gov. Gray Davis and propelled Schwarzenegger to office.
Schwarzenegger said that “the atmosphere is exactly the same [as] when I ran,” back in 2003 with voters were getting fed up with energy crises, blackouts, and the state’s straggling economy following the dotcom bust – and blamed Davis for it.
This time around, Schwarzenegger said, California voters are also fired up and unhappy with Newsom’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the homelessness and housing crises in the state, and extreme weather events.
“There’s a reason why people are angry and they’re not just disappointed. … I drive by homeless people every day when I go to Gold’s Gym and I talk to some of them. They’re angry the way they’ve been pushed around and they’ve been promised things and no delivery,” Schwarzenegger told Bash.
And from the standpoint of small business owners, Schwarzenegger said, “This is your environment in front of a store that you’re paying taxes for and you’re paying a lot of rent for, this is inexcusable. Where’s the protection for our business community that it pays its taxes?”
The latest poll from the Public Policy Institute of California conducted between August 20 to 29 found that 58% of voters oppose recalling Newsom while 39% support removing him from office.
California voters have until September 14 to return their ballots in the recall or to vote in person.
They’ll be faced with two questions on the ballot: whether or not to recall Newsom (a simple yes or no), and if so, who to replace him with. The first question must receive a simple “yes” majority for Newsom to get the boot, but on the second question, the winner to replace him could win with just a plurality and not a majority of the vote.
There are 40 candidates in the running to replace Newsom if he’s recalled, down from the 135 who ran in 2003.
The leading GOP contenders include controversial talk show host Larry Elder, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer, and 2018 GOP gubernatorial nominee John Cox. Reality TV star and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner, YouTuber Kevin Paffrath, and a host of other minor candidates are also running in the recall.
Unlike in 2003, when Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante ran on the second ballot as an “insurance policy,” Democrats have chosen not to put up a replacement candidate of their own, instead urging their supporters to vote “no” on question one and leave question two blank, and casting the entire recall effort as an aggressive GOP power trip gone out of control.
Schwarzenegger, for his part, told CNN that he thinks the messaging could backfire.
“Almost half of the people that are running are not Republicans. So it is incorrect to say to the people that it is a Republican power grab,” he said.