Schiff made a fool of himself with his cynical attempt to help Garvey in the Senate primaries

(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Schiff made a fool of himself with his cynical attempt to help Garvey in the Senate primaries

California Politics

George Skelton

March 6, 2024

Rep. Adam B. Schiff’s clever and cynical ploy in the California Senate primary allowed him to avoid risks in the November runoff. But he exposed himself to another risk.

The Burbank Democrat may have dug some potholes in the highway he normally travels.

Primary election results: Congress and California

The Mr. Clean image may be affected.

Not that it will materially affect how many votes we win in November or any future election. Voters themselves are quite cynical and are not shocked when politicians choose the low road for opportunism.

People today are trapped in polarization and vote for their party’s candidate regardless of any character flaws Donald Trump may have


followers are the sad example.

So what was the risk? Probably not much in the short term. But some voters may no longer look up to the veteran congressman as a courageous idealist.

Certainly many young supporters of Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of Irvine, the potential rival Schiff most feared in November, has been checked.


on his tactics and will probably be remembered for a long time.

Be that as it may, the ship trick was somewhat disappointing and may not have been necessary.

Former Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres star Steve Garvey, the race’s only recognizable Republican, may have advanced to the November runoff on his own without being propelled by Schiff, who hand-picked his favorite weak opponent for November .

But if Schiff’s push was indeed necessary for Garvey to finish among the top two votes and qualify for the November runoff, then this is yet another example of the pathetic weakness of the California GOP. Think about it: A Republican candidate needs the backdoor help of a Democrat to reach the November finale in a major statewide race.

In his election night speech, Garvey should have thanked Schiff. He didn’t. But he warned him.

Know this


It is not over yet


It’s over, Garvey said, quoting the late Yankee catcher Yogi Berra. It’s true in baseball and it’s true in politics.

And my opponent has announced that he wants me. He confuses kindness with weakness. I would suggest he keep that old saying in mind:


Be careful what you ask for.

No, Steve, there is no doubt about the weakness of the California Republican Party. Numbers are decisive in baseball and politics. No Republican has won a statewide race in California since 2006


and Republican voters outnumber Democrats nearly 2-to-1.

In the first election since Tuesday’s primary, support for the three leading Democratic candidates had been well exceeded

that for

the top three Republicans by 20 percentage points. And it was extraordinarily low voter turnout that helped the Republican Party. This landslide distribution is a good predictor of November’s outcome.

In support, Schiff’s goal was to help Garvey defeat Porter for one of the two qualifying spots in the general election. As I wrote before, what Schiff did was smart but stinky.

Schiff’s TV ads ostensibly attacked Garvey for being a two-timer


Trump voter who could bring the Senate under GOP control. The ads also falsely suggested that Republican Garvey, not Democrat Porter, was Schiff’s primary opponent. That disingenuous message was aimed at Democrats.

But the


spots no. One purpose was to promote Garvey’s conservative

in good faith

among Republican voters. Garvey couldn’t afford to promote himself. He hasn’t spent a cent on television. So Schiff did it for him.

In fact, Garvey barely campaigned, surviving on Schiff ads, name

identification and the GOP brand that attracted Republican voters.

Actually, Garvey avoided the answer


will vote in the presidential election, although he did acknowledge that he voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020.

Schiff didn’t come up with the strategy to boost a favored opponent. It’s tried and tested in California.

Example: In the 2018 gubernatorial election, then-Lt. Gen. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom used the same tactic with success when he ran against two high-profile Democrats, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and state Treasurer John Chiang. Newsom’s TV ad promoted little-known Republican John Cox, pushing him into the November runoff. Newsom went on to defeat Cox by 24 percentage points.

One problem is that this undermines a goal of California’s top two open primary system, which is to promote the two most qualified and viable candidates regardless of party in the November election.

Ironically, Schiff has worked in Congress to preserve and promote American democracy, including investigating alleged Russian interference in Trump’s 2016 presidential election and Trump’s attempt to overturn President Biden’s 2020 victory to undo.

But in these primaries, Schiff undermined democratic ideals.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit too purist. Idealism is not a standard requirement for campaign battles. All honest in love, war and primaries. Blah, blah.

I think what he did was perfect, says veteran Democratic strategist David Townsend. What is the job of a candidate in a political campaign? To win. No. 2, don’t do anything illegal and don’t attack your opponent because of something that isn’t true.

The ship certainly didn’t do anything illegal. But he came close to the edge of the truth.

The people of Schiff are to be applauded, Townsend continued. Brilliant.

Fine. But I’m afraid of the next stinking tactic some brilliant politician will come up with.


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