A legit surprise. The guy’s spent the past two years using the prospect of impeaching Trump as a cheap ‘n easy way to build a national liberal donor list. He’s flirted with running for office before too, nearly jumping into the race for Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat in California a few years ago before passing. With every Democrat in the country who’s ever been on television apparently running for president this year, it seemed a cinch that Steyer would throw his hat in and compete with Mike Bloomberg and Howard Schultz to see which billionaire liberal would be the first to get to two percent in a national primary poll.

Nope. Even his advisors were caught off-guard.

Mr. Steyer’s decision came as a surprise even to some of his political confidants. He had made deliberate preparations in recent months to seek the White House, running television ads in the early primary states, recruiting potential staff members and even designating a campaign manager for a possible run.

But Mr. Steyer began informing aides early this week that he would not be a candidate after all, after concluding that he could have a greater political impact through his impeachment activism, several advisers to Mr. Steyer said. Mr. Steyer intends to spend at least $40 million on impeachment efforts in the coming year — money that might otherwise have been directed toward a campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

He’d already lined up a campaign-manager-in-waiting and had posted job listings on LinkedIn for his coming national operation. It’s true that he had obvious liabilities for a Democratic primary — he’s a “wealthy white man,” warns the NYT — but he also had arguments to counter most of them. Annoyed that Steyer got rich running a hedge fund that invested in fossil-fuel companies? Well, until Trump got elected he was best known to the left for his big-bucks advocacy on fighting climate change. He cares™! Irked at the spectacle of an oligarch like Steyer pouring endless millions into his campaign while other candidates are forced to rely on people power and small donations? Okay, but until recently Steyer had been the single biggest Democratic donor in the country for multiple election cycles. “I’ve been generous in using my wealth to help this party succeed because I believed in its vision for America,” he could have said, sincerely. “I’m funding my own campaign generously because I believe in my own vision.” Plenty of Democratic voters would have bought that.

So what steered him away from the race? Hmmm:

An adviser to Mr. Steyer, who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations with him, said that he had been unruffled by [Elizabeth] Warren’s attacks on billionaire candidates. But, the adviser said, Mr. Steyer was impressed by Ms. Warren’s rollout as a candidate and suggested that her announcement video channeled the very themes he had been planning to campaign on.

She’s “channeling” the same left-wing economic populist themes that literally every other Democrat will be running on. What did Steyer think was going to happen in a primary? Everyone would run as Clinton-esque centrists and he’d have the left to himself?

I thought he’d run next year if for no other reason than to raise his public profile ahead of a future run for governor or senator in California. He’d have been a long-longshot in a national primary even with millions being dumped into his campaign but he might have made a good impression and then leveraged that in 2024 when Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat comes up again. She’s 85 and probably now in her final Senate term; Steyer’s just 61 and can afford to wait. He’d have to have made an awfully good impression in 2020 for voters to remember him four years later, though. And frankly he would have been better off challenging Feinstein last year, when the left was sniffing around for a progressive insurgent capable of knocking off a Washington mainstay who’s far too centrist for their tastes. Lefty concerns about Steyer self-funding would have been far more muted in a race against DiFi. I can’t figure why he would have passed on that race and then passed on the presidential primary too if he really wants to run for office. Presumably he’ll try to play kingmaker now instead, bankrolling some lucky Democratic contender who, upon being elected president, will reward him with … what?

To give you a sense of what we’ll be missing out on, here’s a reminder of how Steyer’s org “celebrated” Mother’s Day this year. Exit question via the lefty site Splinter: Is spending another $40 million to promote impeachment among American voters, not one of whom will have a direct say on impeachment, really the best political use of that money? Forty large is a *lot* of dough to waste on virtue-signaling.