I will recount what the various Democratic Senate candidates have been sending to my inbox, but I’m going to start with something different: trying to save Katie Porter’s campaign. I’d say that she has about a 50-50 chance of making the Top Two right now — but she seems to think that it’s much less.

So she wants two things to happen — and neither involves taking votes currently going to Adam Schiff. (She’s not going to convert Schiff’s supporters to support the only candidate who can beat him; that’s implicit in the decision to support him.) She wants to make the runoff by doing four things: (1) convert trailing Democrat Barbara Lee’s voters into her corner because they’re closer politically to her than to Schiff (2) convert non-voters to Katie voters, of course, (3) win over voters undecided between her and Schiff, (4) to win over independent voters not leaning towards any Democrat: her, Schiff, or Lee. (Note that “win over Republicans” is no listed above; she cannot expect to win over Republican voters, because Schiff is way closer to the Republican position than she is. MAGA Republicans hate her whiteboards and the anti-Trump Republicans probably by now appreciate Schiff’s leading the first impeachment, regardless of how they felt about it at the time.)

If these four pathways were going to work, they would already be working. But let’s go through the above one by one before we look at a fifth approach that she hasn’t even tried. (I’m going to pretend that you don’t already know it from reading the headline.)

Here’s where things stand at present, based on the USC Dornsife poll that came out Feb. 1. Schiff has 25% in the latest poll and Katie and Garvey each have 15%. Barbara Lee has half that at 7%. Barbara Lee voters may switch to Katie — though as I’ll note below, her pitch to woo them is terrible — but they probably won’t because Lee (unlike Katie) is truly a person of the left and we leftists are tired of having to eat shit and vote against who we want to serve the preference from centrist Dems who enjoy making us eat shit. Schiff would have to be as bad as Joe Lieberman to get us not to stand up and be counted for our preferred candidate, rather than simply as mediocre as Feinstein (which is roughly where he is.)

Now Katie could make a pitch for Lee voters by dropping out of the short term position (the rest of Feinstein term current term, which ends on January 3, 2031) and endorsing LEE in that race. That would seriously screw Schiff up if he tried to condescend to HER, and then vote for KATIE for the full term position. (Lee would probably appreciate it greatly — and Porter could emphasize her sacrifice and ask Lee to throw her own support for her in the full-term race. She might well do it, having given her supporters the chance to vote for her in the short-term race. Katie then gets her one-on-one race against Schiff in November. And I’ll bet that she’d peel off enough appreciative Lee supporters to overtake Garvey. It wouldn’t take that high a percentage of them! (That, by the way, is exactly how I plan to vote at this point: Lee for short-term and Porter for full-term.)

Alas, I doubt that Katie is capable of this sort of “80% of a loaf” compromise — because she fully believes that she is God’s gift to Congress (after her mentor Elizabeth Warren, of course) and that everyone else simply has the responsibility to accept that reality. She is myopic as a politician can be — though most try harder to hide it.

As I’m going to repeat below, Katie is just not that good at electoral politics. That’s because she’s never had to be that good at it before now. She’s always had the Progressive Change Campaign Committee to bolster her financially and with argumentation — and that has been enough. PCCC — which appears in your inbox as “Bold Progressives” — is simply much less of a factor in a race 50 times larger than her Congressional race (and one in which her chief opponent already has a lot of Porter’s “natural” support.)

Katie’s great strength is in policy: it is out of respect for that that I’m trying to help her here, because she is blowing it. I want her to understand the dynamics of the race better than she seems to. (She ain’t gonna listen to me — but perhaps she will listen to our readers and their friends if they contact her.) To paraphrase the song from Urban Cowboy, she’s looking for votes in all the wrong places.

(1) Let’s start with trying to poach Barbara Lee’s voters. Yes, Lee has virtually no chance of making the Top Two in the full-term race — but she could make it in the short-term race if Porter throws her support to Lee as I noted above. (THIS, Katie, is how electoral politics is played: give something to get something!) I want Katie to understand why people like me are intent on voting for Barbara Lee (at least in the short term race): Katie should get this because she did the same thing herself in 2020!

As you may recall, the 2020 Democratic Presidential race was coming down to Joe Biden vs. Bernie Sanders. This was evident by the time of the second-to-last debate. (To help you place it, the final one was when Bernie and Biden bumped elbows as a cute-as-hell Covid safety precaution; Bernie then soon dropped out of the race because people were thinking only about Covid and not policy.) At the time of that penultimate debate, Lefties were screaming for Elizabeth Warren to drop out of the race and throw her support to Bernie Sanders, putting him past Biden. Instead, Warren told an implausible story of Bernie telling her to get out of the race because a woman couldn’t win. He did no such thing — clearly, he told her that she could not win this race, because of the numbers rather than her gender — but she interpreted it her way and when Bernie denied it attacked him for calling her a liar before a national crowd. (This is why people used to follow or replace Warren’s name with the snake emoji. Maybe some still do.) Before Super Tuesday, the Democratic Party cleared the field for Biden, having a new candidate drop out of the race every day or so — except Warren, who was taking votes away from Bernie. Why did she do this, given that she had no chance to win at that point — and in fact dropped out right after Super Tuesday? It was for the same reason that people will vote for Barbara Lee now: because they wanted their support to be registered for history in the only forum where it really matters: election results!

So Katie should be able to understand this impulse to go onto the record. If she doesn’t have the guts to do the tactical thing and throw her vote to Lee for the short term, while Lee does the same for Katie for the far more important full term, then at least leave Lee’s voters alone because she is alienating them the same way that Bernie’s supporters (myself among them) alienated Warren’s voters. (Note that another reason that she my not get Lee’s voters is the Israeli slaughter of Palestinians, which she can’t afford to come anywhere near condemning because of the majority of Jewish vote — being real here, folks — and many Lee voters won’t touch her for that reason. Luckily, she doesn’t need that large a percentage of them!) One other aspect of this trick: Schiff would now have to spend the runoff campaign attacking two different Democrats, representing two different constituencies, and THAT would likely make him look bad!

(2, 3, and 4 have nuanced differences which I’m considering together because the analyses are so similar: they depend on Katie running a wise and clever, rather than just “smart,” campaign. (We know you’re smart, Katie. But are you clever?)

Here’s Katie from January 31:

I’m a straight shooter, and I take a lot of pride in these emails being honest and transparent.

That means telling you I could lose our race for the U.S. Senate. Two December polls show me being pushed out of the primary. That means my time in Congress would come to an end.

Oh, boo-hoo! You won’t get to be in Congress! It’s all about you, isn’t it? This is not going to impress anyone whose votes she needs and can get.

Here’s Katie on Jan. 14:

If Katie falls into third place, she won’t advance to the general election, and we’ll lose her voice in Washington for good. Imagine Congress without Katie’s Whiteboard, or without her holding corporate CEOs and Big Pharma lobbyists accountable. We can’t let that happen. 

Katie is the only candidate in this race who doesn’t accept contributions from corporate PACs or federal lobbyists. We’re relying on supporters like you pitching in what you can.

So what do you say?

This may come as a shock to Katie, but I doubt that many people who are independent or haven’t made up their mind even know what a whiteboard is, let alone remember seeing Katie use one, or remember what she was saying if they did. This is an article aimed at high information Democratic voters, among whom Schiff leads her 60-40. I don’t know that “Corporate CEOs” and “Big Pharma” are a big part of their vocabulary. What she’s doing is pissing off Barbara Lee voters. (Lee takes corporate PAC or federal lobbyist contributions? Well she sure doesn’t act like it!) This may appeal slightly to some high-information independents, but that’s not where the votes are.

Again, Katie is not going to get votes from Schiff voters: because everyone knows that Garvey has no chance against Schiff so supporting Schiff requires not voting for Porter. But she does have some chance at swaying voters who are inclined to sit out the election, or are undecided between her and Schiff, or are independent — but she’d have to play her cards right. Unfortunately, but not uncharacteristically, Katie’s using a weak and misplaced character-based attack. Here it is from a Feb. 6 email:

“Katie Porter is always willing to call out BS, whether it comes from Republicans or Democrats. So when Adam Schiff released an ad that promotes our Republican opponent and claims that two men are the only leading candidates, Katie set the record straight. [Link to the ad was marked as phishing and I’ve omitted it; you can watch it within a news report on it here.] Schiff’s ad is a deliberate attempt to consolidate conservative support behind the leading Republican candidate, Steve Garvey. Because of California’s unique primary, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the November general election. Adam knows he’ll easily beat Republican Steve Garvey if he’s in the general election. But Adam also knows that polling shows Katie has a strong chance of becoming California’s next U.S. Senator so long as we make it out of the primary. Right now, Katie and our Republican opponent are in a dead heat in the race to qualify for the general election. Ads like the one Schiff released, which attempt to game the system, are why Americans distrust politicians. And with just 25 women in the U.S. Senate, it’s disappointing to see qualified women candidates dismissed like this.


There’s a whole lot to dislike about this!

  1. This ad is carefully written not to say that these are the two leading candidates in the race, though that’s an unstated implication. It says “Two leading candidates” with photos of Schiff and Garvey. And it says that Garvey is “too conservative for California” and has been a longtime Republican opponent who supported Trump. All of the facts there are true (and I agree with the statement of opinion.) It’s not, as she asserts, bullshit.
  2. The ad certainly does boost Garvey’s profile (among Republicans!) by calling him out for being too Republican– and it certainly leaves Porter out of the message. But that’s not improper or unfair! It’s literally Schiff’s right to tell the story he wants to tell in his chosen way (within limits.) Porter knows that in politics, just as in law, each side gets to craft their own message and interpretation of the evidence and has no responsibility to include arguments that the other side wants to emphasize. That’s the other side’s role! So long as they’re using actual facts and avoiding gross fallacies — and choosing what facts to highlight is not a gross fallacy — they get to choose what to present and emphasize. The actual problem for Porter is that Schiff has way much money that she does and she can’t answer him in kind. But that itself could be a good basis for a Katie Porter-style attack on the rich, perhaps something like “he’s had to do too many favors to too many people to amass the money to try to pick the fall opponent that he can easily beat rather than face a better opponent.” (Note that I’m not fact-checking this: even if it’s subjective, it’s still totally within bounds!)
  3. Furthermore, he’s not “boosting” Garvey in general with his attacks; he’s boosting him with Republican voters who aren’t going to be voting Democratic in November anyway! This does not help Garvey with independents or even non-MAGA Republicans.
  4. And who is Schiff being unfair to? The Democratic Party? The general voting public? No, he’s just being “unfair” (if you can call it that) to KATIE PORTER herself, in not telling the story of the race the way that she’d prefer it to be told. This is not lying, it’s not bullshitting, it’s just framing.
  5. Her pitch largely involves complaining that Adam Schiff is doing something underhanded by going into general election mode prematurely — which is a totally normal thing for a politician in his position to do! The leading candidate “prematurely” switches into general election mode — you can see Trump doing the same thing now vis-a-vis Nikki Haley! — to give people the impression that the race is over and they should just accept that and rally behind him.
  6. Porter, to my mind, does something worse when she complains that she shouldn’t be treated this way — you know, like any other political opponent — because she’s a woman and women only make up a quarter of the Senate. It doesn’t need saying, but: Schiff would be doing this exact maneuver even if Porter were a man! Gender has nothing to do with the ethics of what she’s doing, unless he’s saying that he should not treat her as badly as she’d treat a man because she’s a woman. That actually is sexist, because it calls for male politicians to go easy on women rather than treat them as equals. Now if he’s made some remark about her limitations as a woman because she menstruates, or she has less upper-body strength, or some other irrelevancy that caters to bigotry — then she’d be absolutely right in frying his ass over it. But that is not at all what he is doing. And complaining about it as if he is doing that makes her look bad, if not unhinged. Note that her saying “we need more women in the Senate!” is a completely appropriate argument for her to make; that’s not saying “so you should be required to go easy on us in campaigns even in gender-neutral attacks.”

Worse than my analysis above contains is that this likely comes off to low-info voters like whining.

What is SHOCKING is that Porter is such a good communicator in the House, getting out information that everyday citizens can understand, like pointing out the $350 was 15 bags of groceries — illustrated with that many full bags.

What is shocking is that Katie Porter is the one who convinced the government that it had the authority to procure and distribute free Covid tests, probably saving many thousands of lives. (Please do read this.)


To me, far and away her best pitch is that SHE IS THE ONE WHO PRODUCED AND MUSCLED THE CDC TO GIVE US FREE COVID TESTS AND SAVE LIVES AND PEOPLE’S MONEY! (Yeah, some people will hate that — but she’s not getting their votes anyway!)

THIS is something that people could get! “Our county was going through a plague. Remember how scared you were? Rich people could afford Covid tests when they came out. Some — not enough — poor people could get then through MediCal, eventually. Everyone else could pay for them themselves — something like $30 a pop — when we needed to slow down a transmissible disease! Do you remember how much you paid to try to keep your family safe?

Porter doesn’t need to talk about what makes Adam Schiff so arguably skeevy. Voters in the “orange” slice of the pie chart don’t care. She needs to get across how much she’s already done for people.

What I’ve suggested she do by forming a de facto alliance with Lee to shut out Schiff is far more hardball politics than what Schiff did — but it, too, would be within bounds and Schiff just has to deal with it. The idea of her and Lee taking down Schiff in two different ways, while agreeing with each other about him, is terrible pleasing. (Next time, be as smart as Jamie Raskin was!)

(5) Porter has one other tactic available to make the Top Two — and to be fair it may already late in the game to start with it. Schiff is building up Steve Garvey? Porter can build up Eric Early!

It might go something like this:

I don’t understand why Republicans would vote for a stunt candidate who will lose embarrassingly to Adam Schiff if he makes the runoff and won’t even articulate actual Republican positions. Didn’t you already try that with Meg Whitman? But you be you: I’d rather see Garvey stumble and bumble through a fall campaign, given his limited knowledge of politics and lack of sharpness, then do see Eric Early appeal to the public this fall. Early would be a far more dangerous Senator than Garvey — because he has similarly bad positions combined with a fully functional brain. But hey, it’s your Republican party, not mine! If you like your sacrificial lamb way overcooked, it’s up to you. Everyone else watching this: I’m Katie Porter; I approve this message and I’d appreciate your vote.

Why does this strategy make sense? Let me offer you a pair of my own whiteboards:

The whiteboard on the left shows the state of play as of February 1, almost two weeks ago. Schiff is the medium blue with 25% of the vote: Porter (in light blue) and Garvey (in red) each have 15%; Lee (in green) has 7%, and Early (in pink) is around 4% included in the 6% going to other candidates; 32% didn’t have a candidate. (Please pardon the freehanded pie chart.)

Garvey is going for Early’s votes (which I doubt he’ll get); though he may pick up some of the orange ones. Porter is not going to get votes from Schiff, but through the means I’ve explained about she might pick some up from Barbara Lee. Her appeal to the orange voters depends on her making an appeal that appeals to them — and what she’s been doing in complaining about inside baseball by Schiff, and her entitlement to the position as a woman, and her desperate need to her whiteboards to the Senate, are not likely to appeal to these generally low information voters.

If she and Garvey are both at 15%, and she can produce arguments for Early that can move just 1% of Early’s votes to Garvey, that can be a 1% win. Call Early out for opposing her Covid policies — and say that more people would have gone bankrupt and more adults and children would have died! Don’t even mention Steve Garvey! Let the anti-vaxxers eat up Garvey’s margin and carry you to victory!

Or, some combination of the above. Better start! Ballots are here!

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-disabled and semi-retired, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally ran for office against jerks who otherwise would have gonr unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.) His daughter is a professional campaign treasurer. He doesn't usually know whom she and her firm represent. Whether they do so never influences his endorsements or coverage. (He does have his own strong opinions.) But when he does check campaign finance forms, he is often happily surprised to learn that good candidates he respects often DO hire her firm. (Maybe bad ones are scared off by his relationship with her, but they needn't be.)