Larry Elder, running today to replace Governor Gavin Newsom if Newsom is recalled, recently committed to appointing a Republican as a U.S. Senator if current Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein resigns.

That one statement, combined with the fact that Elder is the front-runner, will probably cinch the election for Newsom. Of millions of Democrats who might not have voted, a substantial fraction will have probably voted to prevent what they see as that awful outcome. That means that they will vote not to recall. Given the ratio of Dems to Reps, that means that the recall will almost certainly fail.

So was that an error by Elder? Not necessarily. We need to distinguish between Elder’s incentive and the incentive of those who want to replace Newsom.

By committing to appoint a Republican, Elder appeals to a Republican base and gives them yet another reason to vote for him. Remember that Elder has two goals: (1) recall Newsom and (2) be the top vote getter for replacing Newsom. If Elder had refrained from committing to appoint a Republican, he would have helped achieve his first goal but he would likely have reduced the probability of being the highest-vote-getting candidate to replace Newsom, thus making his second goal less achievable. If he cares way more about his becoming governor than about recalling Newsom, his action is not necessarily an error on his part.

Incentives matter!