While the results are still coming in, it’s clear that Gov. Gavin Newsom will survive the attempt to recall him by a fairly wide margin. That’s not necessarily a surprise given the electoral realities that exist in California, which leans heavily far-left.
Regardless, Republicans who beat the ground and put in the work despite the odds, including several members of the RedState team, deserve all the praise in the world. They are the type of people who will eventually lead to real change occurring in one of America’s most beautiful states. With that said, I think it’s time to look back at what transpired and be realistic about what went right and what wrong.
So to open this up, I’ll just say it: Larry Elder was a terrible fit for this race.
Let me caveat that statement by saying that I think Elder is a great guy personally. My issue is not that I think he holds objectionable political views. I also believe he was truly trying to do what he felt was best for California, and in another reality, he would have made an excellent governor of the state. Unfortunately, that reality is not the one we live in.
It is no secret that California is easily the most left-wing state in the union. Because of that, the moment that Elder entered the race as a far-right, Fox News appearing, Trump-supporting candidate, we saw a shift in polling on the recall question toward keeping Newsom around. Further, as it became clear that Elder would win the second question and become governor if the recall succeeded, Democrats became energized and rallied around ensuring the recall itself failed. Why? Because Elder was not perceived as a safe enough choice to replace Newsom. The rest is history.
And look, I get it. That reality is infuriating for many Republicans across the country who want to believe that everyone loves Donald Trump and that the America First agenda is preferred in even the deepest blue areas. But that’s not true in California, and it was never true in this race. That’s why Kevin Kiley, who RedState endorsed early on, was always a much better candidate for this race. Elder may have been a better candidate in a myriad of red-state races, but this wasn’t a red-state race.
To give another example, we saw this same dynamic with Kimberly Klacik when she ran in a far-left district in Baltimore. Again, I like Klacik personally and I think she holds perfectly acceptable political views. Yet, she was a terrible fit for her race. You do not compete in these radically left-wing areas by running as a Fox News candidate.
Now, I admit that no matter what candidate you put up in some of these races, it’s still a long shot that a Republican is going to win. But that’s not an excuse to lean into doing things that are obviously self-defeating. Elder should have recognized his own liabilities and instead thrown his weight behind someone who wouldn’t have undermined the recall question itself. There was a point where the recall race was far closer, and that was before he entered the race.
Republicans can not operate on the hopes and dreams of purists. We have to accept the reality of the electorates that we are faced with. On the national level, there is a lot of leeway to run a more America First type candidate and to be successful doing that. But in California, that luxury does not exist. The first step to competing there is accepting that truth and running candidates that fit the electorate. In practical terms, that probably looks a lot more like someone who is moderate and Hispanic than someone who appears on Tucker Carlson (and people know how much I like Tucker).
There is no victory in losing by 70% while elevating someone that appeals more to people in Alabama than California. The GOP has the ability to make headway in areas of the country that are predominantly left-leaning, but the party and its voters must be smart in how they go about it, and even then, it’s an uphill battle. In short, beating one’s head against the wall is not a viable strategy.