Will abortion electrify Newsom’s campaign?

Gov. Gavin Newsom is running for reelection as governor of California, but from the impassioned speech he gave Wednesday outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Los Angeles County — and his repeated exhortations for Americans to “wake up” — you’d be forgiven for thinking he might be setting his sights even higher.

On the implications of a draft U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion to take away the federal constitutional right to abortion: “At a time when countries around the world are expanding liberties, expanding freedoms, expanding rights, here we are in the United States of America about to roll back rights. … And don’t think for a second — don’t think for a second — this is where they stop. … Wake up, America.”

On the Republican Party: “How about all of those women and girls raped in states where they don’t even make an exception for rape? Talk about extremist. … They claim to be pro-life, they’re pro-birth. That’s all this is about. This is the pro-birth party. And then you are on your own.”

On the Democratic Party: “I felt this enormous sense of frustration, like, Where the hell is my party? Where is the Democratic Party? You guys paying attention to what’s going on? … Across the spectrum of issues, where is the Democratic Party? Where’s the party? Why aren’t we standing up more firmly, more resolutely? Why aren’t we calling this out?”

The apparent implication behind those remarks: Where the party isn’t standing up, Newsom will; what the federal government can’t do, California will. “We’re not going to roll over. We will not back down. And we will continue to fill in the gaps and address the disparities that continue to persist,” the governor said.

Newsom’s press conference came the same day he released a campaign ad focused on reproductive rights, which he declared the “defining issue of the 2022 election.” But will that strategy prove effective in helping California Democrats turn out liberal and moderate voters even as the party faces strong national political headwinds? CalMatters’ Alexei Koseff takes a closer look.

Newsom — asked Wednesday why he was focusing on reproductive rights instead of issues such as inflation, skyrocketing interest rates and public safety when California already does more than any other state to protect abortion access — had a quick response: “Because rolling back fundamental constitutional rights has a profound impact across the spectrum of issues. It’s a foundational issue. Everything’s built off that fundamental right: Freedom.”

  • For more on Newsom and California’s plans to protect abortion rights: Join me and CalMatters Engagement Editor Meg Zukin for a Twitter Spaces conversation at NOON TODAY. Set a reminder for yourself here.

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