Former Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice is the early favorite to replace Democrat Barbara Boxer in the U.S. Senate in 2016, according to a surprising new poll released Wednesday
Rice, a Republican who teaches at Stanford University, has said that she has no desire to seek the office.
But 49 percent of 972 likely California voters surveyed by The Field Poll said they would be inclined to vote for her to replace Boxer, who announced last month that she would not seek a fifth term.
Kamala Harris, the state’s Democratic attorney general and the former district attorney in San Francisco, follows Rice closely. Forty-six percent of voters would be inclined to vote for her. Thirty-seven percent are not inclined to support her.
Last month, Harris formally announced her candidacy, becoming the first major player to do so.
Third among likely voters is Loretta Sanchez, a Democratic U.S. congresswoman. Thirty-nine percent of those polled said they would be inclined to vote for her.
Former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is thought to be strongly considering a run, posted a relatively poor showing. Only 35 percent of likely voters said the would consider voting for him. Forty-seven percent said they would not. Despite Villaraigosa’s high profile, his mayoral stint was marred by numerous scandals, both political and personal.
The key to Rice’s strong showing in the poll is her comparatively strong support among Democrats when compared to Republican support for Harris and other Democratic candidates.
Thirty-one percent of Democratic voters said they would be inclined to vote for Rice, who has high name recognition due to her cabinet position in the George W. Bush White House.
Only 10 percent of Republican voters would consider voting for Harris. The Democrat most favored by Republicans is California Sec. of State Alex Padilla. Sixteen percent of the GOP faithful would consider backing him.
Among Democrats, Harris comes out on top with 74 percent of likely voters saying they would vote for her versus 13 percent who would not. Likewise, 74 percent of Republican voters said they would support Rice.
Rice is also the favorite among independent voters, women and non-Hispanic whites. Fifty-four percent of voters without a party preference or who support a minor party said they would be inclined to vote for the former Bush cabinet member.
Harris was next among that cohort with a 42 percent showing.
Among likely female voters, 52 percent said they would be inclined to support Rice. Forty-nine percent would be inclined to support Harris.
And among white non-Hispanic voters, Rice leads the pack with 52 percent support versus Harris’ 42 percent.
Villaraigosa carried the Latino vote with 60 percent saying they would be inclined to choose him.
While the poll may appear promising for Republicans in the heavily Democratic state, should Rice stick to her statement that she will not run, the GOP may have little hope to gain the seat.
Phil Wyman, a former state senator, is the GOP’s next best shot, according to the poll. Only 24 percent of voters said they would be inclined to support him.
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