The numbers are all the more startling considering California is a deep blue state and the race to succeed retiring Sen. Dianne Feinstein will almost certainly have no bearing on which party holds control of the Senate in 2024. But they demonstrate the power of using Republicans and specifically former President Donald Trump and his acolytes as central foils in the fierce competition for online dollars from national Democrats. During the spring stretch before and after his House censure, Schiff was a constant presence on cable TV and other programs, and his email appeals became ubiquitous.
All but 2 percent of his contributions came from grassroots supporters giving $200 or less, the campaign said. The average contribution was $34. Schiff is not accepting corporate PAC money.
Public and private polls show a close race for the Senate in California. But in a memo from Schiff’s campaign that’s being sent to key supporters, aides emphasized his financial advantage and pointed to his list of endorsers — from former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and more than half of California’s Democratic congressional delegation to the backing of four statewide labor unions. None of the others have gotten one yet.
“It’s still very early, and while the polls will shift, Adam continues to lead in every metric that is critical to running an effective campaign,” Schiff’s campaign manager Brad Elkins wrote in the memo, which also previewed an August barnstorming of the state across 20 cities, including San Diego, Bakersfield, Riverside, Santa Cruz and Nevada City. “Our campaign continues to build up significant advantages that will propel Adam forward,” Elkins added.
The push for early money has been an intense topic in the Senate campaign, with Democratic Rep. Katie Porter and her advisers consistently pointing to a raft of polls from over the spring that show a tight race with Schiff to make the case that it’s still a wide open contest despite her cash gap.
Both Democrats are nationally recognized figures with large followings, and under the state’s top-two primary system both could advance to a rematch in the November 2024 runoff if no single Republican can consolidate the vote on the right. Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee trails them in polls and has fallen further behind in fundraising.
Schiff in recent years has burnished his national profile as a chief antagonist of Trump and his allies, having served as an impeachment manager and unofficial face of the Democratic resistance to MAGA. He launched his campaign as such, centering Trump and framing the larger debate as a fight to preserve democracy.
Trump’s continued dominance among Republicans, along with his mounting legal troubles, have kept him front of mind with voters and helped to ensure that the threats Schiff has been warning about have remained relevant in the Senate campaign.
House Republicans late last month moved ahead with their censure of Schiff, a largely symbolic action over his role in investigating Trump. That came after GOP leaders removed language to level a multimillion-dollar fine against Schiff over constitutional concerns. Still, they accused him of abusing his office during the Trump probe, an accusation Schiff said smacked of “petty political payback” as he promised not to yield.
The renewed Republicans’ attacks on Schiff have generated a seemingly endless stream of online fundraising appeals from his campaign, to the point that even Democrats aligned with his rivals conceded that all the attention on him as a Trump foe would only help bolster his financial lead over the others.
Last quarter, Schiff raised $6.5 million — more than his opponents combined. Porter, who took in $4.5 million and had $9.4 million on hand, has yet to release her second quarter haul. Lee has raised just over $1 million in each of the first two quarters of 2023.