California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) cruised to victory in a reelection bid that expanded his national profile and sparked questions about his future ambitions.
Newsom beat Republican Brian Dahle by 21 points, with 19% of votes counted, in a race many saw as preordained after the governor’s sound defeat of a recall effort last year.
Along the way, Newsom amassed a fundraising haul that totaled more than $16 million, a massive advantage against Dahle in an already blue state. He spent relatively little time campaigning for reelection.
Instead, Newsom energized the party faithful as he sparred with Republican governors in Texas and Florida and helped boost Democrats in tight races around the country, backed by his own deep coffers.
Newsom held a decisive advantage throughout the race and entered the final week with a 20-percentage-point lead against Dahle, according to RealClearPolitics’s polling average.
Among the issues that put Dahle at odds with the state’s largely Democratic electorate was his opposition to Proposition 1, a rule to add abortion protections to the state constitution, a motivating issue for Democrats and some female voters after the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade.
Newsom had criticized national Democrats for failing to anticipate the court’s decision and distanced himself from the party on other issues. As forecasts showed late ballots breaking toward Republicans nationally, the governor swiped at his party’s messaging efforts.
While he acknowledged the challenging landscape for Democrats, Newsom argued the party needed to fight harder, telling CBS News that they were “getting crushed on narrative.”
Newsom’s victory is likely to renew questions about his future plans.
He vowed to serve a full four-year term if reelected, a message intended to rebut speculation that he may be eyeing a run for the White House if President Joe Biden forgoes reelection.
While Newsom firmly denies any interest in a presidential bid, polling suggests that he could be a top contender to lead a ticket.