RNC funds NEWSOM recall — SF school woes — DIFI dives, HARRIS soars —— FACEBOOK swamped with TRUMP comments

THE BUZZ: In a full-circle moment for Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California Democrat who has long harbored national ambitions is becoming a national Republican target.

Two days after the White House came to Newsom’s defense, the Republican National Committee is going on the offensive with a $250,000 contribution to the burgeoning recall effort, POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt reports. That marks a turning point: While the California Republican Party and members have been flogging the recall for months, until now, money hadn’t flown from the CAGOP’s national counterpart. A quarter-million is a relatively modest sum for a statewide race, but it makes the RNC the recall’s second-largest single donor to this point, after an Orange County businessman motivated by church closures.

And more money could be coming. The Republican Governors Association has been tracking the race, Alex reports, in another sign the California clash has caught the attention of the GOP’s highest levels. Donors outside of California have mostly sat on the sidelines, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee notwithstanding. But if the recall qualifies, it could become a tentpole attraction for conservatives around the country looking for a victory after ceding control of the White House and Congress.

The good news for Newsom: National cash and attention doesn’t alter the math of California’s overwhelmingly Democratic electorate, which handed Newsom a blowout victory in 2018. Even as disillusionment with Newsom’s handling of the pandemic has pared back his formerly robust approval numbers, he still has the support of about half of voters, and registered Democrats still outnumber Republicans by some five million voters. A recall is harder to predict than a normal election, given the potential for a vote-fracturing multi-candidate melee. But when the dust settles, the results of a Republican money landslide could end up looking less like 2003 than like 2020, when Democrats burned millions of dollars trying to unseat GOP Sens. Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham.

But having ridden the back of the tiger, Newsom must now contend with its teeth. He has spent much of the last few years putting himself at the vanguard of progressive governance, bolstering his national profile (and eventual White House prospects) by presenting California as the future of America. Former President Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s campaign apparatus and conservative pundits have been eager to retort that the liberal future Newsom envisions looks like a homelessness-wracked dystopia. They stand equally ready to frame Newsom as the man responsible for shuttered schools, wrecked businesses, confusing restrictions and some of America’s most stubborn coronavirus hotspots. The goal isn’t just about ejecting Newsom from office. It’s also about utterly discrediting what he represents.

BUENOS DÍAS, good Friday morning. Happy Lunar New Year to all of you who are celebrating! Here’s hoping the Year of the Ox goes a little more smoothly than the Year of the Rat.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Gov. Newsom’s authoritarian measures, blatant overreach and complete mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic have proven that he is woefully unqualified to lead the state of California. It is time the people use their constitutional recourse to remove him from power.” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel.

TWEET OF THE DAY: NYT opinion writer Ezra Klein @EzraKlein on San Francisco politics: “In much of SF, you can’t walk 20 feet without seeing a sign declaring that Black lives matter and no human being is illegal. Those signs sit in yards zoned for single families, in communities that organize against the new housing that would bring those values closer to reality.” (More from him on this in NYT.)

WHERE’S GAVIN? Nothing official announced.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: California Playbook will not publish on Monday, Feb. 15. We’ll be back on our normal schedule on Tuesday, Feb 16. Please continue to follow POLITICO California.

SF SCHOOL SMACKDOWN — ‘We’ve become parodies of ourselves’: California Democrats bemoan SF school board, by POLITICO’s Jeremy B. White and Carla Marinucci: Board members last month decided Abraham Lincoln — and current U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein — were no longer worthy of having their names on San Francisco schools. The same board this week devoted much of a marathon meeting to upending storied Lowell High School, saying its admissions requirements resulted in an academic enclave lacking diversity. And it spent two hours debating whether a parent had a sufficiently diverse background to join an advisory council (the board concluded he did not).

The San Francisco Board of Education has drawn national criticism as an example of California’s liberalism gone too far, especially as campuses in the district remain shut despite San Francisco having one of the lowest Covid-19 infection rates in the state. California Democrats routinely lament that conservative attacks on their state are exaggerated for effect, but this time even they are shaking their heads, many saying the caricature has turned out to be true.

FEINSTEIN FREEFALL: It’s not just the online left that’s disenchanted with Feinstein: For the first time, a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll found more voters disapprove than approve of the long-serving Californian, by a double digits: 45 percent disapprove, 35 percent approve. And a huge, 22-point plurality of voters believe the 87-year-old senator is less effective than in the past. Long-simmering gripes with Feinstein’s relative centrism exploded during the Amy Coney Barrett hearings, after which Feinstein relinquished her coveted Judiciary Committee leadership post.

Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris is the most popular California politician polled. Her replacement, Sen. Alex Padilla, is more liked than not but unfamiliar to many voters. And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is deep underwater, while his Democratic counterpart, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has a four-point approval plurality. Full poll results.

STILL HAPPENING — “Harassment complaints continued in Capitol after shift to working at home, report says,” by the Sac Bee’s Lara Korte: “The arm of the California Legislature charged with investigating complaints of harassment, discrimination and retaliation says it received 80 complaints over the past year, at a time when most Capitol employees were working from home.”

— “Lowell Students Say #MeToo. Sexual Abuse Allegations Spark Reckoning at SF High School,” by KQED’s Holly McDede.

NATIONAL TREND — “S.F.’s Lowell isn’t the only selective school to come under fire. Here’s a look at others across U.S.,” by the SF Chronicle’s Annie Vainshtein.

GET REAL — “The Origins Of ‘Planetary Realism’ And ‘Whole Earth Thinking,’” by former Gov. Jerry Brown and Stewart Brand in Noema Magazine.

— “Recalling Gov. Newsom is a desperation move by the shrinking GOP,” by Dan Morain in the LA Times: “This effort is being driven by Republicans who see a recall as a path back to relevancy. Trump hasn’t taken a stand on the Newsom recall, yet. But many of his acolytes, defenders and donors are fully engaged.”

BUSINESS BUCKS? — “Will California’s Big Businesses Get Behind a Recall of Gavin Newsom?,” by KQED’s Guy Marzorati: “And if history is any guide, these companies — with war chests capable of transforming the recall campaign overnight — are likely to remain on the sidelines until Newsom’s fate is more clear.”

— “Economy czar Dee Dee Myers on vaccines, reopening and California’s ‘overblown’ exodus,” by CalMatters’ Lauren Hepler.

— “Caitlyn Jenner bats down rumors she’d run for California governor,” by POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt.

CA VS. NY — “New York is reopening faster than the Bay Area. How does its coronavirus curve compare?” by the SF Chronicle’s Kellie Hwang and Mike Massa.

MISSING DATA — “California is dramatically undercounting its vaccinations, county officials say,” by the Sac Bee’s Sophia Bollag: “In a Friday interview with The Sacramento Bee, California State Association of Counties executive director Graham Knaus said counties in his organization have found the state data is missing hundreds of thousands of administered doses. At the hearing, Sisson said other Sacramento-area counties are seeing similar errors.”

VIRUS BEHIND BARS — “How COVID-19 invaded Sacramento jail, triggering major outbreak among inmates,” by the Sac Bee’s Michael Finch and Jason Pohl: “Last week, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office reported more than 170 cases in the general population at the Elk Grove facility. Two weeks prior, more than 190 cases were recorded at the Sacramento Main Jail — the most seen in a single week at the downtown facility.”

— “Clinics left off vaccine list; low-income patients underserved,” by CalMatters’ Caitlan Antonios: “While hospitals received the first invitations to enroll as vaccine providers in October, community health centers — which serve almost one in five Californians, many low-income and disproportionately Latino — weren’t invited.”

SUPPLY CONSTRAINT — “Dodger Stadium, other L.A. city COVID-19 vaccine sites to close later this week due to scarce supply,” by KTLA’s Cindy Von Quednow, Erika Martin, Mary Beth McDade and Ellina Abovian.

MOOT POINT? — “Appeals court weighs outdoor dining ban — after it’s been lifted,” by the LA Times’ Lila Seidman: “At issue is whether county officials need to provide data to back the dining restrictions they imposed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.”

— “‘We’re Not Castaways’ — Caregivers Of People With Disabilities Struggle To Get Vaccinated,” by LAist’s Jackie Fortiér.

— “Top OC Official Complains About Public Records Requests for Secretly-Approved Covid Contracts,” by Voice of OC’s Nick Gerda.

COACHELLA CASH — “Nation’s first mandatory farmworker hazard pay gains approval,” by the Counter’s Jessica Fu.

EDD GOING NATIONAL? House Republicans call for hearing on California’s unemployment fraud, by POLITICO’s Katy Murphy.

$15 OR BUST — “Democratic leaders dig in on minimum wage amid Senate resistance, by POLITICO’s Sarah Ferris and Marianne LeVine: Pelosi affirmed Thursday that the House’s package — which is being drafted this week — will include the minimum wage hike when it is delivered to the Senate, where it faces a steep climb to passage.

— “Biden formally ends Trump’s border emergency, but troops will stay, by POLITICO’s Quint Forgey and Lara Seligman.

COVID CHECKS — “Most Californians would get big stimulus checks under Biden plan, analysis says,” by the Sac Bee’s David Lightman.

THE MEENA PROBLEM — “Meena Harris has a personal brand. Some fear she’s profiting from her Aunt Kamala’s office,” by the LA Times’ Noah Bierman: “Meena, who was an unpaid campaign representative, would not have been given the prominent platform — or appearances on ‘The View’ and spreads in glossy magazines — if she weren’t the vice president’s niece.”

INVESTIGATING AN OIL SPILL… “Chevron Richmond Refinery Spill: As Crews Mop Up, Investigators Move In,” by KQED’s Ted Goldberg: “Federal, state and local agencies are continuing to investigate a spill from a wharf at Chevron’s Richmond refinery that spread for several miles across San Francisco Bay, prompted a health advisory for nearby residents and led to the closure of a local beach.”

… AND A FIRE — “Illegal pot grow? Antifa? Rumors swirl about Creek Fire cause, but officials’ lips sealed,” by the Fresno Bee’s Manuel Tobias.

EDUCATIONAL DIVIDE — “Schools in more affluent areas move faster to reopen than those in low-income communities,” by the LA Times’ Paloma Esquivel, Melissa Gomez and Howard Blume: “A Times survey of more than 20 school districts throughout Los Angeles County in the past two weeks has found that districts in wealthier, whiter communities like La Cañada are more likely to be moving full steam ahead to reopen elementary schools and have plans in place to welcome students back as soon as permitted — within as little as two weeks if coronavirus infection rates continue to decline.”

— “Federal aid allows L.A. to extend hotel-room rentals for homeless people,” by the LA Times’ Benjamin Oreskes.

— “California lawmakers want to ease limits on state’s aid-in-dying law,” by the LA Times’ Patrick McGreevy: “The bill would speed up the process for patients whose physicians certify they are close to death, and require hospitals that don’t allow physicians to participate to provide patients with information on the law that could include where they can get assistance at another healthcare facility.”

TEACHERS RETIRE — “COVID-19 is driving many California teachers to early retirement, CalSTRS says,” by the Sac Bee’s Andrew Sheeler: “More than 3,200 teachers retired in the second half of 2020, a 26% increase over that same period in 2019, according to a blog post by the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, also known as CalSTRS.”

SUSPENSION WATCH: TRUMP… Facebook oversight board swamped with comments on Trump case, by POLITICO’s Cristiano Lima: Facebook’s oversight board has received some 9,000 comments on former President Donald Trump’s suspension — nearly a hundred times the submissions for its five prior cases combined, the group’s head of communications said Thursday.

… AND THE OTHERS — Twitter suspends Project Veritas account, by POLITICO’s Anna Kambhampaty: The account was “permanently suspended for repeated violations of Twitter’s private information policy,” a Twitter spokesperson said.

— “Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has been banned from Instagram,” by CNN’s Rishi Iyengar: “‘We removed this account for repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines,’ a spokesperson for Facebook, which owns Instagram, said in a statement.”

CHINA CONUNDRUM — “Biden’s China Tech Policy at Crossroads Over Commerce Security Pick,” by the Sac Bee’s Bob Davis: “At issue is who should lead the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security, an agency that reaches back to the Cold War and is now at the forefront of dealing with heightened U.S.-China tensions over advanced technology.”

— “Citadel and Reddit Executives Expected at GameStop Hearing,” by the NYT’s Kate Kelly and Mike Isaac.

— “Disneyland considers new annual passes and tickets for afternoon and evenings,” by the OC Register’s Brady MacDonald.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA… EMPHASIS ON MEDICAL — “Should cannabis workers get COVID vaccine before teachers? They are in California,” by the LA Times’ Erika D. Smith: “Jerred Kiloh, president of the L.A.-based United Cannabis Business Assn. and owner of the Higher Path dispensary in Sherman Oaks, summed it up this way: Cannabis is medicine, so cannabis workers are healthcare workers.”

POT PLUNGES — “Weed stocks tank, giving up premarket gains, as Reddit trade loses momentum,” by CNBC’s Maggie Fitzgerald.

— “New Romance During COVID-19? Sacramentans Say That’s Tough,” by CapRadio’s Sammy Caiola.

— “Multi-vehicle crash injures 3, including CHP motorcycle officer, and closes part of I-10,” by the LA Times’ Alex Wigglesworth.

— “Fresno deputies don’t wear body cameras. That was news to pastor who was handcuffed,” by the Fresno Bee’s Brianna Calix.

— “2 students found dead in dorms at Orange Coast College, overdoses suspected,” by the OC Register’s Eric Licas.

— “The bizarre tale of the world’s last lost tourist, who thought Maine was San Francisco,” by SFGATE’s Andrew Chamings.

Peter Ewell … Facebook’s Ryan Beiermeister … former Rep. Gil Cisneros is (5-0) … Ben Sherwood … KCBS’ Doug Sovern is the Big 6-0!

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