It was just over six weeks ago that California reopened, the statewide mask mandate was lifted and Governor Gavin Newsom began proudly claiming California is roaring back. But as cases now continue to rise, fueled by the Delta variant, the governor faces a tricky dilemma: Every move he makes could impact the recall election next month.
"The Delta variant has thrown the whole recall up in the air for the Governor," Democratic strategist Steven Maviglio told ABC7 News. "He was hoping this would be behind him and now it's right in front of him and it's on the mind of every voter, every voter with kids, every business person."
"We're all facing these new questions about what can we do? What are these new restrictions? Can we go out to eat? Can we go back to school?" he added. "And that's problematic for the Governor."
One lingering question is whether Newsom will call for the return of a statewide mask mandate. So far, he's said he's leaving that up to individual counties.
"Our focus is on vaccinations so there will be no need, if we can extinguish this virus and we can put this behind us," Newsom said when asked about the possibility the mask mandate returns.
Maviglio says trusting the science could now be working against Newsom.
"The science is urging more and more caution," Mavilgio said. "So it's sort of a double-edged sword for him in that he entrusted science to make those decisions and now those decisions might hurt him politically."
Anne Hyde Dunsmore is the campaign manager for Rescue California, a group working to recall Newsom. She said the timing of the Delta variant could potentially work to their advantage.
"I think it's going to work to his detriment," Dunsmore said of Newsom. "Going back to school with masks on, mandated vaccines, all of these things tend to impact people and they have very definitive opinions on them."
Maviglio said Newsom still has some things working to his advantage. For one, people will be back from vacation by September and paying more attention. And also: simple math.
"At the end of the day it's an arithmetic question. Will the Democrats who have a 20% registration advantage turn out for him? " he said. "And he has to motivate them to do that."
Every registered voter will be sent a ballot in the mail this month. The recall election is Tuesday, Sept. 14.