Larry Elder Hints at Political Future, Propelled by California Recall Momentum

Larry Elder will not be replacing Gavin Newsom after the incumbent Democratic governor's emphatic victory in the California recall election. But, aided by a substantial boost to his profile, Elder has his eyes on crafting a political future in the GOP.

Speaking early in the night to a crowd of his supporters, when it was clear Newsom had defeated the attempted recall convincingly, Elder hinted at his aspirations.

"Let's be gracious in defeat," Elder said as his supporters booed the mention of Newsom's name. "And by the way, we may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war."

Elder also said: "I'm gonna be asked by all the members of the media, 'What are you going to do next? What happens after this?' As a former radio host, let me just say this: Stay tuned, God bless you."

It won't be long before Newsom has to fight again for his position, with the next normal gubernatorial election in California slated for 2022. Elder's prominent campaign during the recall has given him a helpful head start over other potential Republican candidates should he bid for the party's candidacy next year.

Replacing Newsom was always seen as an uphill battle. Polling suggested he was always on course to retain the governorship. Even Elder's own campaign website linked to a page that suggested Newsom had won prior to election day.

Still, just pushing for the position has raised Elder's profile in California and given him a useful springboard. A vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, Elder swiftly cemented his position as the lead Republican recall candidate after announcing his involvement in July.

Polling placed him ahead of the other Republican hopefuls, and the San Francisco Chronicle reported Elder had raised more than $18.3 million through fundraising for his campaign, though it paled in comparison to Newsom's war chest of $80 million.

Looking at his social media, Elder saw his followers grow as he has pushed himself as a candidate. According to Social Blade data, he gained 38,404 Twitter followers in July and 38,018 in August.

He also received attention-grabbing endorsements, with actors Jon Voight and Rose McGowan coming out in support of him.

Through his fame as a talk radio host, Elder had an advantage in name recognition among voters—though he was not the only celebrity in the running, with Caitlin Jenner also making a bid as a Republican.

Elder's outspoken nature and his stances on hot-button conservative talking points have aligned him with the most popular Republican voices in the national spotlight, and many of those enthusiastically got behind his campaign.

He also received support from Evangelical churches, winning over a demographic which has proven influential on the national political stage.

The conservative radio host previously refused to say whether he would accept the results of the recall and spoke of "election integrity" when asked on Monday, echoing Trump's complaints about the presidential election.

The Democratic side wielded Elder's status as a Trumpian conservative—a hard sell in largely liberal California—against him. President Joe Biden said at a California rally for Newsom on Monday that Elder is "the closest thing to a Trump clone that I have ever seen in your state."

Ahead of the vote, Republican consultant John Peschong told the Associated Press that Elder looks to be "building a movement," and his campaign has "a grassroots component to it that signifies he's going to be continuing to run."

Republican fundraiser Charles Moran said Elder had "reignited an excitement and passion and a hope for California Republicans that we have not seen in a while. It's been a rocket launch for him."

His run, though, had not been entirely smooth. Other Republican hopefuls called for him to drop out amid a firestorm of criticism over Elder's past comments about women. Politico also reported claims from Elder's former fiancée, who accused him of having brandished a gun at her, an allegation he denies. And his comments on election integrity were highly controversial.

Despite these issues, Elder managed to keep momentum in the race, setting himself apart from his GOP rivals. Now, time will tell if it is a lasting momentum that can carry him down the line.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday's vote, Thomas Gift, lecturer in political science and founding director of the Centre on U.S. Politics at University College London, told Newsweek: "A year can be a lifetime in politics, and it's impossible to predict: a) whether Larry Elder would be interested in running for California governor again; and b) even if so, whether he could ride the momentum he's gained to Sacramento in 2022.

"However, what is clear is that—win or lose in this recall—Elder has significantly expanded his public profile and positioned himself to be a player in Republican politics."

Also speaking prior to the vote, Clodagh Harrington, associate professor in American politics at De Montfort University, told Newsweek that Elder was "achieving what all politicians desire" by dominating the headlines.

"I would say that there is absolute potential here for Elder to play the longer game," Harrington said. "Older white conservative California Republicans are an ever-decreasing demographic, and Elder has the potential to attract voters who may not have previously considered voting for a GOP candidate."

While Elder has made himself a decent platform on which to build, the recall triumph may boost Newsom going into 2022, the Democrat able to pick up steam earlier in the coming campaign than he might ordinarily have.

Beating Newsom proved to be an insurmountable challenge this time out, and it's unlikely it will be any easier at the next election. But should it be a challenge Elder wants to take on, he has placed himself in a prime position to get another chance.

"May God bless California," Elder said, closing off his concession speech. "We've got a state to save."

Newsweek has contacted Elder's campaign for comment.

larry elder speaking in glendale california
Republican recall candidate Larry Elder speaks during a campaign stop with firefighters from various locations in his attempt to unseat Gov. Gavin Newsom in the upcoming gubernatorial recall election on September 9, 2021 in Glendale, California. David McNew/Getty Images