Why Adam Schiff won’t be the next senator from California


Congressman Adam Schiff, whose district stretches from west Pasadena to Hollywood, will not be the next United States senator from California. 

I mean, I guess it’s possible. Schiff has more of a shot than me. 

Schiff has a better chance than Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who announced her retirement this week. 

Schiff has a better chance than a Republican candidate (sorry guys, if it hasn’t happened since 1988, you don’t get good odds). 

And Schiff has more of a shot than Feinstein’s main competition last election, Los Angeles Councilman Kevin de León, who was at the time endorsed by the California Democratic Party but has since fallen out of favor with voters because it turns out he’s a closet racist.

I even think de León is more likely to resign from the City Council than Schiff is to become senator — and if you read this column regularly, you know I don’t think de León will resign. 

Schiff has his strengths. He is a prolific fundraiser. In 2020, he raised $25 million — which is a lot — good enough for fourth overall for a House member. He was behind then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and now-Speaker Kevin McCarthy. 

Unfortunately, he was also behind his main rival at this point, Congresswoman Katie Porter, who is an even more prolific fundraiser. If you read this column regularly, you will know I hope anyone but her wins. 

Schiff has national name ID. I haven’t seen polling and don’t know if he has more or less name ID than Porter, but he kept his name in the headlines for what seemed like an eternity as a main impeachment prosecutor of then-President Donald Trump. 

He’s also got the endorsement of Pelosi, which is likely worth something in California. 

So why am I so down on Schiff’s chances? 

First, Schiff is a charisma black hole. I know that sounds mean, but watch a video of him and prove me wrong. He would struggle in a debate with Porter (though that might not matter since more people are likely to watch reruns of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” than a Senate debate), because she is a much more interesting speaker, even if what she says is often incorrect and feels like a lecture (and not a fun lecture). 

Demographics are against him. “As a white man, Schiff faces an additional challenge among some California Democratic voters who hope to diversify the Senate’s ranks,” reported Seema Mehta in the Los Angeles Times.

Apparently Porter agrees, having told NBC Los Angeles: “we need more people with different kinds of experiences and that means we do need more Black people in the Senate, we need more Black women in particular.” 

Related: Adam Schiff’s un-American effort to silence critics on Twitter

Of course, Porter is also White and running for Senate. Does Porter really mean there should be more Black women in the Senate? 

We might find out. Bay Area Congresswoman Barbara Lee has filed to enter the race after having enough respect for Feinstein to wait until she announced her retirement. 

If Porter means what she says, then she’ll of course bow out and endorse Lee — but we know she doesn’t mean it. She wants to see a Black woman in the Senate, but not more than she wants to see herself in the Senate. 

Anyway, back to Schiff. 

Probably his biggest vulnerability is ideological. He was a member of the centrist Blue Dog Democrats and then the centrist New Democrat Coalition. 

Schiff was a centrist until it wasn’t cool to be a centrist anymore. Remember, Bernie won California’s Democratic presidential primary in 2020 and Gavin Newsom beat more moderate challengers for governor in 2018 (both instances prove there’s a glimmer of hope for a White guy like Schiff, though). 

Related: Adam Schiff’s vote for the Iraq war should disqualify him from the Senate

Politico reporter Sarah Ferris tweeted recently that Schiff was now seeking to join the Progressive Caucus and he told Politico in a separate article: “I very much view myself as a progressive.” 

Nice try, Schiffy. Voters have the receipts. 

If his plan is to run against himself, it’s not a strong plan. 

Lee, however, is a progressive (as is Porter) and her entering the race presents yet another problem for Schiff. She is also from Oakland and Bay Area candidates usually fare much better than Los Angeles candidates when running statewide. 

Lee is not a particularly strong fundraiser, though. and it’s impossible to compete in California statewide without money to go up on TV. 

I disagree with all three on so many issues, but Lee does seem to be the most genuine and thoughtful of the three, which is at least refreshing. 

So to recap: Schiff’s exceptionally boring, he’s running against himself and demographics are not on his side.

Anything can happen. But “anything” probably won’t include Schiff being California’s next senator.  

Follow Matt Fleming on Twitter @FlemingWords

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