Political pundits say Newsom's plummeting poll numbers raise odds for recall

A new poll from UC Berkeley seems to show trust in California Gov. Gavin Newsom is on the decline since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The governor's critics have honed in on the many lockdowns and restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of the virus, calling them inconsistent and backed without science.

Most recently, Kevin Faulconer, the former Republican mayor of San Diego, bashed Newsom in his video announcement to challenge him for the governor's seat.

"I'm running to make a difference, not to make promises," said Faulconer in his Monday announcement video.

Faulconer's announcement comes in the middle of a campaign aimed to recall Newsom, a former San Francisco mayor. It requires just under 1.5 million signatures to be put on a ballot. The Associated Press reports that the campaign has collected about 1.3 million signatures.

According to UC Berkeley's poll, surveying 10,000 California residents online, 48% of those surveyed say they now disapprove of Newsom; only 22% praise the governor for his vaccine distribution. When it comes to recalling the governor, 36% said they would be ready to vote against keeping Newsom.

"Newsom is the head of the Democratic Party which runs California," said John Dennis, chairman of the San Francisco Republican Party. "They're really responsible for the failures of California."

And the polls have Democrats worried. 

"We hope it doesn't qualify and if it does qualify, I can tell you Democrats in California will be campaigning hard against a recall," said Dave Campos, chairman of the San Francisco Democratic Party.

The last Republican to sit in the governor's seat was Arnold Schwarzenegger from 2003 to 2011. And experts think Faulconer has a chance. 

"He knows how to win," said Dennis. "He knows how to win in not terribly friendly Republican environments and I think he's got a pretty good reputation around the state."

But Campos says Democrats are confident they won't see a recall, not will they lose the governor's seat. He says frustrations about California's COVID-19 response should be blamed on the President Trump administration, not Newsom's

"I don't believe Californians will replace Gavin Newsom with someone who comes from Trump's Republican Party," he said. "The Republican Party is out of line with the values that Californians hold dear."

When asked about the new candidates and the recent poll, Newsom's chief strategist Dave Newman said this in a statement: "Voters recognize that this is an incredibly challenging, intensely complicated, and critically important moment for public officials worldwide. That's why the Governor remains laser-focused on vaccinations, reopening, relief, and recovery."

Newsom's 2018 challenger, John Cox, is also running again. His campaign said he is the best man for the job.

In a statement, he took aim at the other candidates. 

"As mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer's mismanagement earned him C- and D- grades from his hometown newspaper," Cox's statement read. "Career politicians like Faulconer and Gavin Newsom have kept California in constant 'crisis mode,' from shady insider deals to failing on vaccine preparation."

The recall needs to collect the necessary signatures by March 17 to earn a spot on a ballot.

Californians will be asked if they want to recall Newsom, and the majority answer will prevail. If the measure fails, then the governor's race will proceed to 2022.