If there was one breakout star of California’s recall election, it was Larry Elder, a conservative talk radio host who, during the spring and summer, transformed himself into a Trump-era political figure.
Mr. Elder was the leading person to receive the Republican vote in all 58 California counties. Statewide, he had previously been on the question of who should replace Governor Gavin Newsom if he was removed from office, with the only exception in San Francisco, where a little-known Democrat had 21 percent of the vote as of early Wednesday.
Mr Elder has appeared on Fox News 52 times this year and won a platform that is unlikely to leave. Last month, he told a local television reporter in Sacramento that he “quite likelyTo run for governor in 2022, when Mr Newsom will face re-election. His 47 percent total vote on the Replace Newsom question makes him a formidable foe against any other Republican candidate.
Yet as Mr. Elder captured the heart of a Trumpian base in California, his candidacy demonstrated the limits of that strategy. Mr Newsom scored a recall victory with a nearly identical margin to President Biden’s 2020 victory in California; Mr. Elder brought no new voters to the Republican Party in a state where Democrats have the advantage of nearly two-to-one voter registration.
Winning the office may not be the goal.
Conservative figures can make a decent living on Fox News appearances, and Mr. Elder is adept at communicating with right-wing audiences from his years on the radio. There is a list of candidates who have lost high-profile races, only to transform themselves into political figures with big platforms as they seek office again: Democrats Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Beto O’Rourke in Texas and Republicans John James in Michigan and Sean Parnell in Pennsylvania among them.
Mr Elder’s spokeswoman Stephanie Marshall declined to comment on his future plans on Wednesday morning. She would not say whether her resolve to walk again remained in action. During a concession speech on Tuesday night, Mr Elder did not address 2022 but asked his supporters to “stay on”.
“We may have lost the battle,” he said, “but we are going to win the war.”