Adam B. Schiff is airing a new TV spot in the run-up to his U.S. Senate campaign, but the outcry makes you think he's peddling in the swamps or calling for the execution of puppies and kittens. You would think that there might be.
Ads are harmless enough. Bass narrator. Tingling and piano. Various scenes come to mind, including suburban homes and doctors in white coats.
“Two leading candidates for the Senate,” the narrator exclaims. “His two very different visions of California.”
Next, the only people on the screen are Mr. Schiff, with blue embroidery, and Republican Steve Garvey, outlined in red.
The calculation is simple. Mr. Schiff hopes to secure his Senate seat in the March 5 primary by pushing his weakest opponent, Mr. Garvey, to a November runoff.
impudent? of course. Is it cynical or anti-democratic, as some critics claim? Not a bit.
“All is fair,” said Democratic strategist Garry South. More than 20 years ago, he helped strategize the selection of embattled California Gov. Gray Davis during his re-election campaign. “The reality is that candidates have to do what they have to do within the context of the particular election they are participating in.”
After all, this is politics. It's not a patty cake.
In California, that means operating an electoral system in which the two candidates who receive the most votes in the primary advance to the general election, regardless of party.
Schiff appears to be in a good position to grab the top spot. This leaves Garvey and Schiff's Democratic colleagues, Barbara Lee and Katie Porter, competing for second place.
There are no certainties in life. But Republicans haven't won a California Senate seat since 1988, when “The Phantom of the Opera” opened on Broadway and the Soviet Union still existed.
Garvey's chances of ending his losing streak are about as likely as the 75-year-old Garvey's chances of beating Shohei Ohtani in the home run hitting competition. That's why Schiff is eager to face him in November.
Mr. Porter, who is believed to be in a close race with Mr. Garvey for the No. 2 spot, threw out the gender card in an angry remark in response to Mr. Schiff's TV spot. Schiff is not only an enthusiastic supporter of Republican Porter for X, but he is also “endorsing qualified Democratic female candidates.”
Hours later, former Sen. Barbara Boxer endorsed Schiff. She had intended to remain neutral in the race, but Porter's “unwarranted pointed attack” on Schiff and the inference that the Burbank congressman was a misogynist caused her to She said she has changed her mind. (The headline: “Boxer rejects 'boxing out' claim'' is exactly what it says.)
As shrewd as it may be, Schiff's move is no longer particularly new.
In 2002, South helped Davis sabotage his most feared Republican rival, Richard Riordan, by resurfacing an old cable TV interview in which the former Los Angeles mayor described abortion as murder. The ad damaged Riordan's moderate image and helped Davis' rival, the more conservative Bill Simon Jr., win the Republican primary. He then lost to Davis in the fall.
Larry Grisolano, a top adviser to Schiff's campaign, worked on that gubernatorial race. “He's not only seen this movie before,” South said. “He helped me direct.”
Since then, other candidates have pursued similarly meddlesome strategies.
Perhaps the most famous was in Missouri in 2012, when Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill ran hundreds of television ads aimed at boosting her favorite opponent, the hapless Todd Aiken, in the Republican primary. That's a million dollars spent on it.
Mr. MacAskill, who was re-elected in a landslide, later explained how it worked. In her autobiography, she wrote that the ad “looked as if I was trying to disqualify him, but as we all know, calling someone 'too conservative' in a Republican primary is… gives that person a badge of honor.” …Our phones were ringing with people saying, 'I'm going to vote for him just because she says she's not going to vote for him.' ”
Mr. Schiff's ad takes a similar line, criticizing Mr. Garvey as too conservative in California, pointing out that Mr. Garvey twice voted for Donald Trump, and calling Mr. On the 5th, he called on Republicans to move Mr. Garvey over Mr. Porter and Mr. Lee.
Please say what you want to say. The 30-second spot is true, and Schiff is not hiding behind his own spending campaign or using “dark money” or untraceable campaign funds to pay for it.
Voters have a choice. If they are disgusted by Schiff's tactics and feel that his focus on Garvey is somehow unconscionable, they can vote against him.
Mr. Porter derided Mr. Garvey and Mr. Schiff as “typical politicians,” reiterated his vow to be a force for change and a fighter in Washington and the Senate, and claimed the same in his response ads. .
But if that's the fighter Democrats want, they'll probably appreciate a candidate who doesn't overdo it.