You read it here first: by week six of the 2018 NFL season, pundits will be talking about the "unexpected" Battle Royale for a California Senate Seat.
Blame it on "East Coast bias" or the now typically superficial analysis of the Washington pundit class; the first major battle in the coming civil war between California Democrats is not receiving the coverage it deserves. The race in question is for the seat currently held by Sen. Feinstein.
What is not widely understood is that California has what is known as a "jungle primary" where the top two vote-getters in the June Primary election face off in the November General Election regardless of party affiliation. In a state as heavily Democratic as California this means that in many state wide races there will be two Democrats facing off in the fall. Such is the case for Mrs. Feinstein’s Senate race as she will almost certainly be running against State Senate President Kevin de Leon — a darling of the progressive wing of the party and a Latino.
This past week, Sen. Feinstein failed to secure the endorsement of the California Democratic Party at their convention in San Diego.
While it is true that in the past Democratic Candidates have failed to achieve the necessary 60 percent support of its membership and went on to secure the nomination in the primary election (including Mrs. Feinstein herself in her unsuccessful 1990 gubernatorial bid) this time is very different. Mr. de Leon finished first the balloting among the party faithful with 54 percent to Mrs. Feinstein’s 37 percent. Nevertheless, citing traditional metrics of a candidate’s viability, this event is being treated as "interesting" but not significant by the media. If there is one thing we professional political observers learned in 2016 is that the "physics" of politics is different and the traditional measures of a candidate’s strength no longer apply.
Let us examine each of these methods used by the media to evaluate the competitiveness of a race and how they apply — or don’t apply in the 2018 California Senate contest.
A February poll from the Public Policy Institute of California showed Mrs. Feinstein with a 46 percent-17 percent lead among California voters with 37 percent undecided. This is very bad for Mrs. Feinstein as a 26-year incumbent polling under 50 percent especially in such a Democratic state has problems. The high "undecided" number highlights the fact that a huge number of California voters don’t feel any attachment to her as their Senator. Senator Feinstein is very happy largely living in Washington and, as the oldest member of the Senate (85 on Election Day), doesn’t spend as much time in her state tending to the activities that most Senators do to stay relevant to voters. Additionally, California has moved further to the left in the two decades since Senator Feinstein last had a competitive race. There have also been missteps including her recent statement admittedly that President Trump "could be a good president" — this is nothing short of blasphemy in California Democratic circles.
According to FEC filings Mrs. Feinstein’s campaign began 2018 with $9.8 million in cash on hand and Mr. Leon entered the year with a paltry $359,000 — a nearly 27-1 advantage for Mrs. Feinstein.
It won’t matter.
The importance of money in politics isn’t the same as it was as recently as six years ago. In the age of social media campaign commercials (where 75 percent or so of campaign dollars go) don’t pack a wallop anymore. Candidates with a message that resonates and that are adroit in the use of social media are now competitive with high dollar campaigns. Think Bernie Sanders and President Trump, both were massively outspent by Mrs. Clinton. Mr. de Leon is young, energetic — and Spanish speaking with a progressive message that is in line with increasingly progressive California.
What does it all mean?
This race will be a barn burner before we start carving our pumpkins and it isn’t clear who will win; and as usual the Washington pundit-ocracy and their outdated ways of analyzing races don’t see it coming.
John Jordan serves on the Hoover Institution Board of Overseers, and is a regular contributor for Fox News Channel, Fox Business Channel, and "The Alan Nathan Show." After graduating from Occidental College with a degree in Economics, John received his J.D. from Empire College School of Law and his M.B.A. from the University of San Francisco and is a Member of the California Bar. John has also served as a Commissioned Officer in the United States Naval Reserve and is fluent in both German and Russian. A long time pilot, Mr. Jordan holds an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate with multiple Type Ratings and is a Certified Flight Instructor. During the day John is the CEO of Jordan Vineyard & Winery. He shares his hillside home in Sonoma County, California, with his three rescue dogs. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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