Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire and unofficial Trump tech advisor, may be considering a run for governor of California, according to three Republicans close to him.
Worth an estimated $2.7 Billion, Thiel made his money by out-thinking conventional wisdom. Co-founder of Paypal and an early investor in Facebook, Thiel has proven his contrarian mindset can lead an outlier to decisive victory in business and investing, but can it translate to politics?
According to Politico, Thiel “has been discussing a prospective bid with a small circle of advisors, including Rob Morrow, who has emerged as his political consigliere. Morrow has worked at Clarium Capital, the San Francisco-based investment management firm and hedge fund that Thiel started.”
The 49-year-old entrepreneur may have to explain that he only intends to be governor of the most ungovernable state — not king of a new country.
After all, just last week Mr. Thiel told Maureen Dowd of the New York Times that California should secede from the union.
Maureen Dowd: California should secede.
Peter Thiel: Confirm. I’d be fine with that. I think it would be good for California, good for the rest of the country. It would help Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign.
But that won’t be his biggest challenge.
In order to win, Thiel will have to take a page out of President-elect Donald Trump’s playbook, and unite some widely disparate factions in California’s “jungle primary” — where the top two candidates advance to the general election regardless of party.
If he can win over some of the #CalExit left who want to secede and also pull in some of those on the right who’ve been pushing for an independent State of Jefferson in the inland and northern-most counties, he might have a chance.
Both the Republican and Democrat parties have been shrinking in favor of the fastest-growing demographic that identifies as “neither” (a.k.a. “decline to state”).
That really puts California in play for the right candidate — with the right message.
The question is: is Peter Thiel that candidate?
In the age of Trump, how does he compare?
- He can self-fund like Trump, which is important in a state where dropping over $100 million doesn’t guarantee you a victory (remember Ebay CEO Meg Whitman’s $140 million loss?)
- He’s a pragmatic, focused, problem-solver like Trump, not an ideologue.
- His politics are not clear-cut or widely known. Not only did he support Trump, but like Trump he donated over $56,000 to the campaign of one of his potential rivals — Democrat Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
- He’s an outsider like Trump, which may be exactly what overtaxed, overworked Californians may be seeking in 2018.
Clearly, Thiel will be attacked from the left for supporting Mr. Trump, and he’ll be attacked from the right for supporting Mr. Newsom.
How he addresses the most controversial issues — taxes, water rights, illegal immigration, entitlement reform and gun rights— will determine if Thiel’s to have any chance at all.
Yet the key to winning California isn’t being the smartest candidate, but the one who can put into words the angst and frustration and fears of some of the most oppressed people in the free world.
And then lay out a vision to Make California Great Again.