If California’s so liberal, why is George W. Bush’s former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, leading the pack to replace retiring Democratic Senator, Barbara Boxer?
According to a recent poll, Rice has a substantial advantage over rising Democratic stars like California Attorney General Kamala Harris or Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. In fact, when polled, more than 49% of Californians say they would consider voting for Rice in November 2016–a tremendous accomplishment for a Republican in deep-blue California.
Rice, who has largely retired from politics and now serves as provost at Stanford University, is perhaps the only bright spot on the paper-thin Republican bench in California. With no statewide elected officials, and an uphill battle for any Republican to remain competitive in a high-cost, high-stakes Senate election, the California GOP has struggled to recruit an electable candidate.
Rice’s strong advantage comes from her name recognition as a major national political figure, as well as her reputation as a perceived moderate–a popular position in a state that, despite its reputation as liberal stronghold, has elected more Republicans than Democrats to the Governor’s Mansion in the last five elections.
And, as an African-American woman, Rice could also make strong inroads into demographics where the GOP has recently been weak–minority voters and women–which could create many more opportunities for victory.
Despite her critical role in the controversial Iraq War, Rice’s approval rating remains strong at 57% nationwide–showing just how widely respected she is across party lines for her statesmanship and accomplishments.
So far, Rice has been reluctant to throw her hat into the ring–even going so far as to say that she has “zero interest” in running for Senate at this time. And, as a political figure who has spent her entire career in appointed positions like National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, she remains untested on the campaign trail, which could dampen her current polling advantage.
But, with such a weak bench, one thing is clear: Condoleezza Rice remains the last, best chance for Republicans to turn California a little more red in 2016.