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California GOP Fails to Unify in Governor’s Race, Faces Steep Uphill Battle

Having survived the recall attempt in September, Gavin Newsom is in a strong position compared to his Republican contenders.

California Governor Gavin Newsom appears on track to win a second term in the upcoming November election, as the Republican Party has so far failed to put forward a gubernatorial candidate strong enough to rally the party.

Newsom, who faced a hard-fought recall campaign last year but ultimately retained his office with nearly 62% of the vote, appears to have exhausted much of his opposition. Two of the top-tier candidates in last year’s recall, including talk show host Larry Elder and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, have announced that they do not plan to run again.

Elder and Faulconer placed first and third, respectively, in the recall election on the question of who should replace Newsom if he was removed from office. The second-place candidate, YouTuber Kevin Paffrath, also appears to have no plans to run again.

In their place, Newsom faces a crowd of far less prominent Republicans, including California GOP-endorsed State Senator Brian Dahle. Michael Shellenberger, a conservative-leaning author, is also running as an independent.

However, no single candidate has emerged with the apparent ability to unite Republican voters and party officials before the upcoming election. This Republican lack of enthusiasm, combined with the formidable financial resources at Newsom’s disposal (including a political war chest of $25 million at the end of last year) makes for a rosy outlook for the governor in the upcoming election.

California, once a Republican stronghold which produced presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, has developed a reputation in recent years as arguably the bluest state in the nation. No Republican candidate has won statewide office since 2006.

The state faces a number of crises, including crime, homelessness, cost of living, water shortages and deadly fires, all of which could be hazardous territory for a political incumbent. These potential vulnerabilities, however, seem unlikely to be effectively taken advantage of by Republicans in the upcoming election cycle.

While one of Newsom’s challengers may still deliver a stronger-than-expected showing, they would have a long way to go in their quest to excite the Republican establishment and base, let alone appeal to independent voters.

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