Thiel’s Midterm Hangover & More Hakeemology

Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel is profoundly disappointed by the fate of Blake Masters, who lost a race that some Republicans thought was, at one point, eminently winnable, sources told Teddy. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/WireImage
Theodore Schleifer
November 29, 2022

One of the great sources of chatter in G.O.P. donor circles, as I’ve reported, is what role Peter Thiel will play in the 2024 campaign cycle and beyond. Thiel was the singular financial backer behind Senate candidates J.D. Vance, now Senator-elect in Ohio, and Blake Masters, who lost in Arizona. Republicans have been squinting for months to assess whether Thiel was for real when it came to electoral politics, and what his split result in the midterms might portend for his interest going forward.

Publicly, Thiel is as inscrutable as ever, but it’s safe to say he hasn’t been energized by the outcome. Thiel, sources close to him have told me, is profoundly disappointed by the fate of Masters, who lost a race that some Republicans thought was eminently winnable, despite Thiel pouring some $18 million to boost his campaign. Thiel could plausibly blame himself, given that he declined to reinvest substantial money into the general election despite repeated entreaties. Nevertheless, I’ve heard Thiel feels the Masters team, including his staff, did not run a great race. And while Thiel was instrumental in electing Vance to the Senate—I personally would judge Thiel’s midterms record with one Senator and one nominee as a success—Thiel badly wanted both his candidates to win, and is naturally extremely downcast that Masters lost. (“Completely blackpilled,” after Arizona, as one person close to Thiel’s orbit put it.)

Meanwhile, in the wake of the midterms, Thiel is beginning to make changes in his advisory shop. James Bacon, Thiel’s sole full-time political aide whom he hired at the beginning of the midterms cycle to help manage his donations, was recently let go, I’ve learned. Bacon, who worked in the Trump White House under Johnny McEntee—who is himself an unpaid, more informal Thiel adviser—had only really expected to be in Thiel’s employ through the midterms, I am told. Still, Bacon’s departure is a tea leaf that suggests Thiel is stepping back from the campaign world, for at least the next few months. With Bacon’s departure, Thiel appears increasingly short-handed when it comes to executing political decisions: Several of P.T.’s closest aides have been exited recently as new Thiel Capital honcho Brian Rowen cleans house, including Eric Weinstein and Jimmy Kaltreider, who was heavily involved in Thiel’s political operations. And of course, Masters himself is no longer at Thiel Capital, though there is some speculation I’ve picked up about whether he will return to the family office in some capacity now that he’s off the campaign trail. On Tuesday, Masters was named to a R.N.C. autopsy-like committee to help modernize the party, despite his loss.