Condoleezza Rice
Lauren Victoria Burke  /  AP
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a Sunday interview with George Stephanopolous on “ABC's This Week,” in Washington.
updated 2/25/2007 1:29:13 PM ET 2007-02-25T18:29:13

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice finds Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama appealing and says it won’t be much longer before race isn’t a barrier to becoming president.

Obama is a top-tier contender among Democrats and his wide support early in the 2008 race “just shows that we’ve come a very long way,” Rice said Sunday. She and the Illinois senator are black.

“I do think we’ve come a long way in overcoming stereotypes, role stereotypes about African-Americans. I will say race is still a factor. When a person walks into a room, I still think people still see race,” Rice said.

“But it’s less and less of a barrier to believing that that person can be your doctor or your lawyer or a professor in your university or the CEO of a company. And it will not be long, I think, before it’s no longer a barrier to being president of the United States,” Rice said.

Rice, a Republican, has said repeatedly she will not run for president despite high popularity ratings and measurable support in opinion polls.

She noted that if she were to continue as secretary of state through the end of President Bush’s term in January 2009, “we will not have had a white male secretary of state for 12 years — a white woman, black man and a black woman. That says something about how far our country has come, even though we can’t deceive ourselves. Race is still a factor in this country.”

Her most recent predecessors at the State Department were Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright. Powell was secretary of state from 2001 to 2005; Albright from 1997 to 2001.

Rice discussed race in the United States when asked about Obama’s candidacy. Obama, a first-term senator, is considered among the early front-runners for the Democratic nomination with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards.

Rice noted that Obama is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where the secretary often testifies.

“I think he’s very appealing and a great person. He’s on my committee. And we’ve always had good exchanges. I think he’s an extraordinary person,” she said.

Rice declined to say whether she thought he had enough experience, especially in foreign policy, to be president.

“Oh, I’m not going to make that choice. The American people are going to make that choice,” she said.

Rice was interviewed on “Fox News Sunday.”

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