It is a testament to the dormant state of California’s once mighty Republican dynasty that the only GOP candidate either party gives a shot at capturing Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat upon her retirement next year is the one who is resolutely refusing to run: former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Last week, Rice topped a statewide Field Poll of 18 potential candidates, drawing the support of 49 percent of likely voters, compared with 46 percent for state Attorney General Kamala Harris, the only declared Democratic candidate so far. That sparked a fresh flurry of speculation about a Rice candidacy — and the latest emphatic denial from her chief of staff that she has any interest in the race.
Rice’s standing in the poll doubtless reflects mostly name recognition, but the fantasy football nature of her potential candidacy reflects something more profound: the deep hole Republicans have dug for themselves in the state that once produced Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
“Condi’s the fantasy candidate for a lot of things,” said Rob Stutzman, a veteran Republican political consultant in Sacramento. “She was our fantasy candidate for governor last year as well.” He added: “The cliché that demographics are destiny has defined us here in California.”