Yesterday morning, the idea that Condoleezza Rice was topping Mitt Romney’s VP list would have seemed wildly unlikely. It’s amazing what a Drudge scoop and banner headline can do in just a few short hours:
Late Thursday evening, Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign launched a new fundraising drive, ‘Meet The VP’ — just as Romney himself has narrowed the field of candidates to a handful, sources reveal.
And a surprise name is now near the top of the list: Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice!
The timing of the announcement is now set for “coming weeks.”
Ann Romney did say her husband was considering a female candidate, though the initial assumption at the time was that she was referring to Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Sure, Condoleezza has come up in the VP speculation, but it never seemed like a serious consideration for either side. Plus, Condi shut down rumors pretty thoroughly late last month:
Rice told “CBS This Morning” she’s not interested in joining Romney, who has more than enough delegates to win the presidential nod at the party convention in Tampa.
Rice said, “I didn’t run for student council president. I don’t see myself in any way in elective office.”
Rice also said, “There is no way that I will do this because it’s really not me. I know my strengths and weaknesses.” She said Romney will pick a strong running mate and she’ll support the ticket.
That was a pretty straightforward rejection. But it’s always possible she could change her mind, a la Chris Christie.
At the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol stops short of endorsing the idea, but seems to think Condi’s a possibility:
Who’s the woman? It could be Kelly Ayotte or New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez. But as much as I like both of them, I suspect Mitt Romney will see them as risky picks, lacking sufficient high-level government experience to unequivocally answer the question of whether they’d be qualified to take over. No, the woman Ann Romney likely has in mind is Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state.
Rice wowed the crowd—and seemed to impress Mitt Romney, who was standing beside her—when she spoke in a featured role at a Romney campaign event two weeks ago in Park City, Utah. Rice is qualified, would be a poised (if novice) candidate, and would complement Romney in terms of area of expertise, gender (obviously!), and life experience. Rice offers an unusual combination of being at once a reassuring pick (she served at the highest levels of the federal government for eight years) and an exciting one.
What’s more, while the other VP possibilities have decent but middling favorable/unfavorable ratings (and are mostly unknown), Rice’s favorable/unfavorable, according to a Rasmussen poll a couple of months ago, is a pretty staggering 66-24. Rice has said she’s not interested—but Dick Cheney said he wasn’t interested at this point in 2000.
There would be many benefits of choosing Rice (particularly the “exciting” but “reassuring” qualities that Kristol notes), but she also carries her own risks. She has little practice on the campaign trail, and Romney seems to want someone who is capable of campaigning independently. It’s hard to tell at this point if Rice is a serious consideration for Romney, or if this is a way to change the subject during a difficult week for the campaign.