latest Field Poll on the race to claim the California Senate seat currently held by Barbara Boxer. The poll suggests that more people would consider supporting the Republican former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, than would consider supporting the leading Democrats: Attorney General Kamala Harris and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. So does this mean that Rice is all of a sudden a frontrunner and Dems should start quaking in their boots about a seat they might have at first thought was safely theirs? Absolutely not.
To begin with, Rice isn't even a potential candidate at this point. She has declared repeatedly that she has no interest in running. The Sacramento Bee reported that she was informed of the poll results and it did not change her mind one bit about the idea of running. But even beyond that, the way the poll question is worded is they key issue. Instead of saying "if the election were held today, which candidate would you vote for?" and reading a list of names, it simply asks whether or not people would be inclined or not to vote for a particular candidate. Let's take Kamala Harris, the Democrat with the highest inclination ratings at 46%. She has 74% of Dems inclined to vote for her, with 13% not inclined at 13% with no opinion. Her numbers among Republicans are essentially reversed. Rice does as well among Republicans as Harris does among Democrats, but gains a much higher inclination among Democrats than Harris does among Republicans, scoring an inclination of 30.5%. But does that mean that if Rice were a candidate, she could be remotely capable of getting 30% of the Democratic electorate to vote for her in a head-to-head with Harris? Absolutely not. Statistically speaking, it's very likely that most of the Dems who were inclined toward Rice also reported being inclined toward Harris in the poll. When given a choice between a Democrat and a Republican they would be inclined toward, it's very doubtful that all, or even most of that 30.% percent of Dems would choose Rice over Harris. The same could of course be said of the small number of Republicans who are inclined toward Harris, but Rice stands to lose far more ground with Dems than Harris does with GOP voters in this poll.
Furthermore, Rice has a veneer of moderation, which makes her palatable for middle-of-the-road voters and some Democrats. But if she ever did decide to become a candidate, Democrats would undoubtedly spend millions to hang the Bush administration around her neck like an albatross. So first: Rice isn't running. Second, even if she were running, she wouldn't be as much of a threat as the poll implies. And third, even if she were such a threat, she would find herself losing her moderate sheen in short order.
At ease, Californians.