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Gov. Gavin Newsom and his Democratic allies are dragging Donald Trump center stage in their fight against the Republican-led campaign to recall the governor, banking on the overwhelming distaste Californians hold for the former president to sink the effort.

But recall supporters want the spotlight to stay trained on Newsom’s actions in office, including his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and are trying to send a message to the mercurial former president: Please stay out of our campaign.

“I think the less he’s involved in the recall, the better it will be for the recall,” said Dave Gilliard, a veteran Republican consultant who is working on the campaign and helped place the successful 2003 recall of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis on the ballot. “The recall has to be about Gavin Newsom for it to be a success.”

Trump remains extraordinarily unpopular in California — he captured just 34% of the state’s votes in the November election. And that was two months before radicalized Trump supporters rioted at the U.S. Capitol to stop Congress from certifying the outcome of the presidential election, leading to Trump’s second impeachment in the House of Representatives.

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