(CNN)The White House announced this week that President Biden will fly to California to campaign for Gov. Gavin Newsom ahead of the September 14 recall election.
Which raises a basic question: Why?After all, Biden is in the midst of the most challenging period of his young presidency as the situation in Afghanistan, the Delta variant of Covid-19 and the situation at the southern border have combined to complicate his political fortunes. (Sidebar: It’s possible that Biden cancels his planned California trip, which was announced Wednesday, as Vice President Kamala Harris did this week after the devastating terror attack in Kabul Thursday that killed 13 US service members and more than 170 others.)And it’s a long way to go to defend a Democratic governor in one of the most Democratic states in the country.Read MoreGiven all of that, there’s really only one answer to that question above as to why Biden is making the trip for Newsom: The President — and Democratic strategists more generally — are worried about the governor losing the recall vote.
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And they’re right to be concerned. A CBS poll released earlier this month showed 52% of likely California voters oppose the recall effort while 48% support it. There’s lots of other data out there that suggests something similar — that as the recall vote date gets closer, the public is increasingly undecided about whether to keep Newsom around.Newsom himself expressed his concern in a recent interview with The Washington Post’s Dan Balz. “Democrats up and down the state haven’t taken this seriously, whereas Republicans have,” Newsom said. “Republicans see this as a historic opportunity.”The Biden visit is aimed at closing that enthusiasm gap. A presidential visit typically creates excitement among base voters — and draws lots and lots of favorable press coverage, which might sway Democrats (and independents) who remain on the fence about Newsom.It’s the ultimate trump card — with apologies to the former president — that a party can pull. And it’s usually a sign of the a) import of winning a race and b) worry that said race is not heading in the right direction.The Point: Early ballots returned look good for Newsom. But he’s clearly nervous about turnout. And Biden traveling to the state suggests that the White House shares those worries.CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correctly state that the White House did not specify in its announcement when Biden planned to travel to California next week.