Hindsight is 20/20 but the Republicans sinking in acceptance before California’s electorate missed an opportunity by not fielding a better-known candidate in the U.S. Senate contest. Latest polling from the UC Berkeley IGS poll indicates that state senator Kevin de Leon could probably be kept out of the top two if Republican voters coalesced around a known candidate.

We’ve heard endlessly how important it is for Republicans to have a candidate in the governor’s race come November to encourage Republicans voters to come to the polls. While the U.S. Senate race is not as high profile as the governor’s race, it is important enough for the Republicans to be represented in an effort to remain relevant among voters.

As it is, the IGS poll gives a shot to even a relatively unknown Republican to edge de Leon for the second spot behind Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Republican James Bradley, with a ballot designation as a chief financial officer, placed third in the poll at 7%; not far behind de Leon’s 11%.

As the IGS press release noted: “The highly partisan nature of voter preferences and the fact that nearly twice as many Republicans as Democrats are still undecided, could work to Bradley’s advantage since it offers him greater opportunities than de Leon to expand his support base in the closing days.”

A solid Republican candidate, perhaps one endorsed by the party, would have a good chance of making the final. The poll indicated that while Sen. Feinstein has gained support since the April IGS poll increasing from 28% backing to 36% among likely voters, de Leon’s number stayed stagnant at 11%.

Why didn’t Republicans make a better effort to boost a senatorial candidate? The answer is that even a second place finisher would have little or no chance against Sen. Feinstein in the fall campaign. Still, an ambitious candidate could take the opportunity to gain name ID and help boost a connection to GOP voters who feel they have someone to support in the General Election.

If there are no Republican candidates for governor or U.S. Senator in November there could be a sense among GOP voters that the party has given up.

Indeed, political fortunes for the Republicans may be threatened in another way if Insurance Commissioner candidate and former Republican Steve Poizner does well in his run as an Independent. That might encourage well-qualified Republicans to consider taking the Independent route in seeking offices in the future, including making a shot at the U.S. Senate.