President Joe Biden campaigned with Gov. Gavin Newsom in California on Monday, a day before the state’s highly anticipated recall election that could remove the first-term Democrat from office.
Biden gave the closing pitch to a large crowd in Long Beach, calling the leading Republican front-runner, conservative radio host Larry Elder, “a clone of Donald Trump.”
“All of you know last year I got to run against the real Donald Trump,” Biden said. “Well, this year, the leading Republican running for governor is the closest thing to a Trump clone that I have ever seen.”
He added, “I’m gonna make this as simple as I can: You either keep Gavin Newsom as your governor or you’ll get Donald Trump. It’s not a joke.”
Biden told the crowd that the eyes of the nation are on California and that the results will “reverberate around the nation and around the world,” citing the state’s large economy.
Although Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in California, Newsom has faced scrutiny over his strict Covid-related mandates, rising taxes and homelessness in the state, among other issues. In the recall fight, Elder has emerged as the front-runner in a crowded field, motivating Republicans in the state.
Biden’s presence could be a boon for Newsom even as the president’s national approval ratings have taken a hit. A late August NBC News poll found that the president’s ratings dipped below 50 percent at the end of a summer that saw rising Covid cases the chaotic withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
The president, who toured the state with Newsom to discuss climate change and build support for his trillion-dollar legislative package, touted Newsom’s work on combating the pandemic and said voting no in the recall would protect the state “from Trump Republicans trying to stop us from beating this pandemic.”
Newsom also invoked the former president in his speech, citing the stakes for progressive causes such as voting rights, climate change and abortion.
“We have not defeated Trumpism, and Trumpism is still on the ballot in California,” he said after criticizing the Texas abortion law that was recently upheld by the Supreme Court.
“Racial justice is on the ballot tomorrow night. Economic justice is on the ballot tomorrow night,” he added.
Every registered voter in California has been mailed a ballot, which is the most common form of voting there. As of Monday, roughly 8 million of the 22 million mail-in ballots sent to registered voters have been returned, according to the Associated Press.
Voters are being asked if Newsom should be removed — yes or no — and then asked who should replace him. Newsom looked to be facing a difficult fight, but he has regained strength in recent weeks thanks to aggressive campaign spending and pervasive ads.
There are 46 replacement candidates for voters to choose from, and if a majority of voters approve Newsom’s removal, the candidate who gets the most votes on the second question becomes governor. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, replaced Democrat Gray Davis as governor in 2003 — the last recall election in the state.
Dartunorro Clark covers politics, including the Covid-19 recovery, for NBC News.