June 20, 2024

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Science It Works

Could Newsom’s fun and games backfire?

The images coming out of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent public events have been, to say the least, surreal — and could pose a political liability for the governor, who must balance buoying Californians’ spirits with acknowledging the ongoing harm of the pandemic as he fends off an almost-certain recall election.

On Wednesday, Newsom rode a roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain to promote the latest prize in the state’s vaccine lottery: 50,000 free tickets to the amusement park. On Tuesday, he drew $15 million worth of prizes to mark California’s grand reopening while surrounded by Minions, Smurfs and Transformers at Universal Studios Hollywood — and then made an appearance on the Late Late Show with James Corden. Three times in two weeks, he’s acted as a game show host, juggling lottery balls in front of a Wheel of Fortune setup.

The carnivalesque atmosphere of Newsom’s recent appearances — which prompted some reporters to question if they were on drugs — could invite comparisons to the antics of gubernatorial recall candidate John Cox, who launched his campaign with a 1,000-pound Kodiak bear in tow. It could also come off as tone-deaf to the hundreds of thousands of Californians who lost loved ones to the virus, are on the brink of eviction, can’t find work or are still waiting for their unemployment benefits.