Elder energizes California GOP but steers party against the tide

The party could embrace Elder, yet doing so may anchor California Republicans to a conservative vision that has resulted in more than a decade of losses in the blue state. Just as former President Donald Trump drove away moderates in California and other majority-Democrat states, so too could an empowered Elder.

“The best thing the California Republican Party can do if Larry Elder shows up is to discourage him from running again,” said GOP strategist Rob Stutzman, a Trump critic.

Elder’s strong showing compared to other challengers is diminished by another election result: nearly half of all voters chose no replacement for Newsom, leaving the second question on the ballot blank. But should Elder assume the role of chief party “influencer,” it may be hard to control him — or the party’s direction — in the next cycle.

Even Elder himself acknowledged last week that he may have reached his ceiling for voter popularity in California’s recall. As a percentage of all ballots cast in the recall election, he received only 27 percent support, well behind the share of voters who found no candidate worthy of support.