- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 1, 2005

Devoted admirers of Condoleezza Rice bought time for a television commercial during the premiere last week of “Commander in Chief,” backing the secretary of state for the White House in 2008.

The commercial, shown during ABC’s new series about America’s first female president, was the most high-profile move yet in a burgeoning grassroots campaign to persuade Miss Rice to run for the nation’s highest office, despite her public statements that she has no desire to seek the nomination.

Richard Mason, a Miami doctor and enthusiastic Rice supporter, established Americans For Dr. Rice in 2004 after talking with colleagues about the best Republican presidential candidate in 2008.

In the months since then, the group has recruited several thousand members, including chairmen in key electoral states, and is registered with the Federal Election Commission. Its volunteer leaders are taking their cause to Republican meetings and conferences across the United States.

“We’re just a bunch of average Joes who got together to try to draft a president and were amazed at the response,” Dr. Mason said. “It’s become a second full-time job for many of us.”

Crystal Dueker, the group’s national co-chairwoman is crisscrossing the country promoting the “Condi in ‘08” message.

“This is people power, not a Washington, D.C.-based group,” she told the Sunday Telegraph. “We are ordinary people like doctors, professors, small-business owners and employees who have regular jobs.

“We see the future in need of strong leadership and diplomacy, and the only person we see with the qualities most important to us is Secretary Rice,” she said.

With the field open to succeed President Bush, Miss Rice’s supporters hope that her much-vaunted sense of duty and patriotism will overcome her publicly stated reluctance to run.

Americans for Dr. Rice ran its TV spot in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire. Though the group gained national publicity for its ad, Miss Rice and her aides remained mum on the group’s campaign.

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