WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff spent more money on his campaign in the first three months of 2019 than all but two other House Democrats -- and they're both running for president.
Even though it's not yet an election year and he is not expected to face a competitive reelection race in 2020, the California Democrat spent roughly $1 million in the first quarter of the year, a majority of which went toward digital ads rebutting attacks from President Donald Trump.
Only Reps. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Eric Swalwell of California spent more among the House Democratic caucus, due largely to transfers they made to their presidential campaigns.
Once a little-known congressman, Schiff has emerged as one of Trump's chief antagonists as the chairman on the House Intelligence Committee. And he's using that new platform to expand his profile and fundraising reach across the country, potentially setting himself up for a future bid for higher office or party leadership post.
"From a strictly political standpoint, Donald Trump is the best thing to ever happen to Adam Schiff," said Dan Schnur, a professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communications and the University of California, Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies. "Before 2016 he was held in very high regard by people who paid very close attention to Congress. Now his profile has exploded off the charts. And his team is being smart to capitalize on that."
Schiff's name has been circulated as a possible replacement for Sen. Kamala Harris, should she be elected president in 2020, or Sen. Dianne Feinstein, should she retire in 2024. He's also well-positioned to move into House Democratic leadership, when the current crop of septuagenarian leaders retire.
That's due in no small part to his perch on the intelligence panel, where he has probed the Trump campaign's ties to Russia as well as his business interests abroad. He is now a regular in the headlines and on cable news shows.
The media glare grew particularly intense at the end of March, after the Justice Department released a summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, which the president claimed was "Complete and Total EXONERATION."
Three days later, Trump began attacking Schiff, directly, calling him "a disgrace" during a lengthy Fox News interview . The next morning, the president took to Twitter to call for Schiff's resignation, claiming Schiff "spent two years knowingly and unlawfully lying and leaking" about Mueller's investigation. At a rally in Michigan that evening, he added a derisive nickname: "Little pencil neck Adam Schiff."
It only took Schiff's campaign a few hours to hit back.