Neel Kashkari May Lose Now, but Approach Could Win for GOP Later

California Republicans are a long way from the day the state was majority White and Ronald Reagan governed.

Now with 1.7 million registered Asian-American voters alone, California is a minority-majority state. But Neel Kashkari may have shown his fellow Republicans a new way to compete in a more diverse political environment.

The 41-year-old Indian American is unlikely to win in his bid to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown on election day. But during his campaign, Kashkari found a way to talk about GOP politics in ways that might lure the new majority, often seen as locked in with Democrats.

The gubernatorial candidate has been praised for using civil rights as a frame for issues like economics -- making his point by spending a week "undercover" as a homeless man in Fresno, and reaching out to new constituents beyond the traditional base -- an approach one former Republican operative calls, ""21st century GOP, version 1.0.”

“I wanted to see (if) I could run on these issues and get Republicans excited about them -- and I would argue that I have," Kashkari told reporter Josh Richman for the Bay Area News Group. "Our party has hit the rocks, and it's human nature for some people to head for the lifeboats. But I'm trying to right the ship and get the ship moving again."

Like previous GOP gubernatorial candidates, Kashkari helped fund his campaign with $3.12 million of his own money. But Republican strategists, like Matt David, say Kashkari’s approach may help California’s GOP move forward.

"Neel has provided a blueprint for the GOP to speak to demographics it's shunned for the last two decades," David told the Bay Area News Group, "the same demographics needed to be competitive in California,"