Condi Rice (for Senate), 2016?

Now this is a genuine surprise.

The respected public opinion firm The Field Poll recently surveyed California voters ahead of the Golden State’s Senate race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer. Presumably, few assumed that the race would be a competitive one in this heavily Democratic state. But the results of this survey were positively shocking.

Democrats are coalescing behind state Attorney General Kamala Harris to serve as the anointed successor to Boxer. The field is far from clear; former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Reps. Loretta Sanchez and Jackie Speier, and Secretary of State Alex Padilla may yet run for their party’s Senate nomination. But Harris has the backing of the DSCC, and that is an advantage that is difficult to overcome.

On the Republican side, the GOP has an embarrassingly thin bench in California. Most Republican officeholders in that state have declined the opportunity to run for Senate. Only Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin and Assemblyman Rockey Chavez (R- Oceanside) currently hold elected office and were tested with voters in this Field Poll. There was, however, one name with national recognition that this pollster decided to test: former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Now for the shock: Between Rice and Harris, Field found that more Californians are inclined to vote for her to replace Boxer in the upper chamber of Congress than they are to support Harris. “Two individuals in this test receive the highest levels of potential voter support,” The Field Poll release read. “They are Republican Condoleezza Rice, former U. S. Secretary of State (49%) and Democratic State Attorney General Kamala Harris (46%).”

“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,” The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross. “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.”

While Rice is certainly a better fit as a Republican for the California electorate than she would be in a more conservative state, these results are still surprising. There is a perception among political analysts that proximity to the Bush administration, and specifically the Iraq War, is a toxic association for any Republican politician. That should be especially true in California. Presuming Field Poll’s findings are to be believed, and this is a pollster with a sound track record, that conventional wisdom is simply inaccurate.

Surely, the Iraq War did not become a popular endeavor overnight in the Golden State. If Rice were to run (a dubious prospect), she would have to navigate a minefield in the effort to explain her role in the run-up to the war and the failure of coalition forces to find the promised weapons of mass destruction. It is possible, however, that the acute threat posed by ISIS that resulted from the premature withdrawal from Iraq and the President Barack Obama’s failure to make good on his promised “red line” for action in Syria have sharpened even center-left voters’ focus on security issues. Maybe a few are warming to the notion that an America in retreat around the world has not resulted in a safer international security environment.

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