Condi Rice for vice-president? At least Juan Williams thinks it’s a good idea.
With former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney now emerging as the presumptive Republican nominee for president, now is the time for the GOP to find a running mate.
And Juan Williams of Fox News believes that Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State under George W. Bush, is made to order.
“Rice would be a political game changer for the 2012 race. Yes, she would be the first African-American woman to be on a major party’s presidential ticket, at a time when the GOP is losing ground with minority and female voters,” Williams argues. “But she is more than that because — unlike some other prospects — her selection can never be dismissed as racial tokenism. She is an experienced political player who has scars from previous battles; former Vice-President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are still taking shots at her in their latest books.”
A recent CNN/ORC poll puts Rice at the top of the list of Republicans vice-presidential contenders. But Rice in the number two spot may not be the cakewalk that Williams suggests. After all, there are pros and cons to her candidacy.
As for the pros, first of all, Condi Rice brings likeability and personality to the ticket. Obama is ahead in the major polls, nationally and in battleground states like North Carolina, Virginia, and Nevada. Even Arizona is up for grabs. Although the election is months away and a lot can change before November, the race will come down to 10 swing states, nine of which Obama won in 2008.
Romney suffers from an enthusiasm deficit and a long, drawn out and nasty primary campaign season that potentially positions the candidate and the party in an unfavorable light — among independents, moderates and other voters outside the Republican base. The charisma, charm and brilliance of a Condoleezza Rice could help offset Romney’s negative image as a rich, dull, white bread kind of guy.
Second, Rice brings much needed diversity to the ticket and to the party. In recent years, the GOP has an image problem, which is fully grounded in reality. The GOP is viewed by some as an overwhelmingly white party that has veered to the edge of right, plain and simple.
Black Republicans are mostly nowhere to be found, particularly black Republican elected officials under 40 (with one, high profile exception). Moreover, the party’s hardline stance against immigration isn’t exactly attracting Hispanic voters, and its Islamophobic, anti-Sharia legislation has made Muslim- and Arab-Americans run in the opposite direction.
According to one recently retired Republican operative, the party “is so full of lunatics,” and its platform limited to protecting the wealthy, starting wars and religious fundamentalism. Other reputable, nonpartisan sources have called the Republican Party “ideologically extreme,” dysfunctional, and the “core of the problem” with Washington politics.
Further, the GOP’s perceived “war on women,” including opposition to abortion and contraception, has left Romney trailing by nearly 30 points among single women. That in itself could end the election. And the untimely departure of a gay Romney adviser undermines the image of the “big tent party” to which the Republicans at least used to pay lip service. In a best case scenario, the moderate, pro-civil rights Rice would help counter the Republicans’ diversity problem and image of intolerance.
Finally, Rice brings foreign policy credentials to the table. As a former governor and the head of Bain Capital — a private equity form that chops up other companies for profit— Romney is lacking in foreign affairs bona fides. Williams believes Rice’s foreign policy expertise would make up for Romney’s lack of international credentials. In addition, the Fox commentator thinks her recent work on public education, as a matter of national security, could help Romney’s image and further the national discussion on education.
Meanwhile, here are the cons: First, Ms. Rice was a high level official in the Bush administration. Bush was an unpopular president who left office with a low approval rating, and a legacy of costly wars, blunders in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and deficit-financed tax cuts. Condi Rice would tie Romney to Bush even more, and that’s a name association he doesn’t need.
Further, Rice as the VP pick would open up her personal life in ways she wouldn’t like. Single and without children, she has kept her private life shrouded even in the Bush years. But this would be all but impossible under the media scrutiny of a presidential campaign.
Another downside of Condoleezza Rice as the Republican vice-presidential candidate is that she wouldn’t actually win Romney any new minority or female support, the groups that provide President Obama with strong support. With the passage of voter suppression laws across the country, Republicans are not scoring any points among racial minorities. Obama received 95 percent of the black vote in 2008 and 67 percent of the Latino vote, and is poised to win similar levels of support from these groups this year.
African-Americans aren’t going anywhere in 2012. And despite his new efforts at Hispanic outreach, Romney — who opposes the Dream Act and believes in voluntary deportation for undocumented immigrants — may have already lost the Hispanic vote. Romney’s alienation of Latinos in the primary season will haunt him in the general election, and it is hard to imagine Condi Rice, even with her pro-immigrant sentiments, stemming the tide of Latino public opinion against the GOP.
And for those who believe that Rice would attract women, remember Sarah Palin. Sen. John McCain chose the Alaska governor as his running mate in 2008, in the hopes she would shake up the race and attract disillusioned Hillary Clinton supporters. It didn’t work, and the result was Barack Obama.
Finally, Condi is not from a swing state. Her home state of Alabama is solid red. Besides, it looks as if Obama cannot be stopped in some swing states, even if someone from that state is on the Republican ticket. Obama wins “Virginia”:http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/may/1/obama-leads-romney-va-or-without-mcdonnell-ticket-/, even with Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-Virginia) as Romney’s running mate. Similarly, a few polls show that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) would not help Romney win the state, resulting in an Obama win if the election were held today.
Besides, when asked if she would serve as Romney’s running mate, Condoleezza Rice replied, “Thank you for that enthusiastic response, but no thanks.” That might be the most convincing reason against a vice-presidential candidacy for Rice.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove