California Governor Gavin Newsom retained his seat on Tuesday after what could have become a pitched recall election. While nearly everyone expected Newsom to win in Democrat-dominated California, the contest was not as easy as the results showed. What turned the tide for the California governor was an ominous four-worded message — “This recall is close”.

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On August 5 morning, Gavin Newsom’s campaign sent out these four words in a fundraising email. The prospect of having a Republican governor in California was enough to shock the complacent Democrats into action. This, in many ways, became the turning point for Newsom’s campaign and helped energise California’s voters who had until then simply expected a Democratic win.

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On Tuesday, Gavin Newsom turned back all attempts to get his to retire. Incomplete returns showed him headed towards a landslide victory, according to the Associated Press. Gavin Newsom’s strategist Sen Clegg said earlier this week, “The base may start out asleep…but you can wake up the base”.

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And wake up the base they did. Newsom’s victory will provide the Democratic governor a juicy comeback story which could further widen his base before the 2022 elections. The unflinching focus on the narrative of the threat of a Republican governor-led California “became a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the more you talk about being close, the more (Democrats) pay attention,” said Michael Trujillo, a Los Angeles-based consultant for the Democrats.

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Democratic voters in California were also aware to the fact that losing the governor’s seat would trouble national fundraising plans. This prompted many minority voters to take caution and vote against the election of a Republican governor.

Another aspect that helped Gavin Newsom race to victory was that the person contesting against him was Larry Elder, a conservative talk show host who had lent support to Donald Trump and therefore estranged to the California electorate. Larry Elder could well have become California’s first Black governor but his conservative-libertarian values did not sit well with the state’s left-leaning voters.

(With inputs from Associated Press)