Andrew Rice, the 34-year-old Democratic freshman state senator, wants to sell his progressive message in a bid for Sen. Jim Inhofe's seat in 2008. The question is: Do Oklahomans want what Rice has to offer?
In 2004, the Senate race between Brad Carson and Tom Coburn drew more money from national interest groups and party committees than any race in Oklahoma history. Carson outspent Coburn by more than $1.2 million and still lost by 12 points. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spent $2.3 million in the losing effort.
In 2007, the Democrats are steering the national debate, abandoning issues like gay marriage for a dressing down of U.S. strategy in Iraq. But it remains to be seen whether national Democrats, feeling burned from the Carson race, will pour millions into a young candidate or whether sending money to Oklahoma is like kicking a dead donkey.
When Rice filed his candidacy papers to run with the Federal Election Commission on Aug. 2, he kicked off a new journey into the unknown, a road lined with a million handshakes in rural hamlets that passes over multimillion dollar fund-raising mountains and through dark forests haunted by 30-second attack ads. The road leads to Washington or nowhere.
Campaign operatives from the Inhofe and Rice camps agree that each side will raise and spend at least $3 million in the next year, leaving someone with an office in Washington. If recent history is any indication, Rice is the early favorite for measuring staplers in December 2008. "Grant Slater