The big headline on the Drudge Report tonight is "Vice President Rice" in reference to the growing chatter that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has an interest in joining John McCain on the Republican ticket this fall. While Rice has continually said she has no interest in becoming an elected politician, her recent moves (such as speaking in front of fiscally conservative groups, like Americans for Tax Reform, which have little to do with her role as chief foreign policy adviser to President Bush) have raised the suspicions of political reporters.
“Condi Rice has been actively, actually in recent weeks, campaigning for this,” Senor said this morning on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
According to Senor, Rice has been cozying up to the Republican elite.
“There's this ritual in Washington: The Americans for Tax Reform, which is headed by Grover Norquist, he holds a weekly meeting of conservative leaders -- about 100, 150 people, sort of inside, chattering, class types,” Senor said. “They all typically get briefings from political conservative leaders. Ten days ago, they had an interesting visit -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- the first time a secretary of state has visited the Wednesday meeting.”
Rice is a very intriguing choice as Vice President for a number of reasons. First, there's the obvious. One of two politically powerful and critical groups of voters will be very disaffected by the result of the Democratic primary. If Barack Obama wins the nomination, women may recoil, and may reconsider voting for the Democratic nominee. If Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, especially if she wins by use of Super Delegates, African Americans could bolt the party as well. Rice's addition to the ticket would make McCain much more palatable to either of those groups than he would be otherwise.
But her gender and ethnicity are just a bonus, made more relevant because of the strife within the Democratic Party. She's a strong candidate regardless of whom the Democrats nominate because she's very bright, well-regarded (despite her connection to President Bush and the Iraq War), and in a "change" election, certainly would be a nice complement to the Washington-insider McCain. And if McCain didn't have a big enough advantage among neo-conservatives and war hawks, Rice doubles down that bet.
But, that's also her biggest weakness. Rice, more than almost any other Vice Presidential nominee, would make this election even more about the Iraq War than we previously thought possible, and that's not a smart battle, especially against Barack Obama, who so eloquently and almost eerily predicted the chaos the Iraq would would bring in a 2002 speech where he proclaimed that he was "not against all wars" simply against "dumb wars." Rice's closeness with President Bush and the Iraq War, with both so unpopular heading into the 2008 election, may sink McCain's candiancy.
Rice has other negatives as well. While she has incredible national security and foreign policy bonafides, that's not exactly an area John McCain needs help with. Rice also brings nothing to the table as it regards the electoral college, as she is not a big enough star to bring her home state of California into the Republican ranks, and she no pull in other states. And in an election focusing more and more on the economy, and away from foreign policy, she doesn't help McCain in that regard either.
Now, compare her to Mitt Romney. Romney has gotten a lot of attention lately, as despite his ice-cold relationship with McCain during the Republican nomination fight, Romney has raised money for McCain and has done everything possible since dropping out of the race to make himself an attractive VP candidate. And he brings a lot to the table. While many have said his Mormonism may be a negative, in crucial swing states in the fall, like Nevada and Colorado, Romney's popularity and religion may push McCain over the finish line, especially against Barack Obama, whose electoral strategy relies much more heavily on non-traditional Democratic states like Colorado and Nevada than on the traditional swing-states of Florida and Ohio. He also puts Michigan in play, because of his family history in the state, and may aide McCain in New Hampshire, neighbor to Romney's home state of Massachusetts. Plus, who better to balance McCain's foreign policy knowledge with a mastery of the economy than a former financial guru who made hundreds of millions of dollars on Wall Street. For the same reason Michael Bloomberg makes a lot of sense for Barack Obama, Romney makes a lot of sense for McCain.
And McCain has to think about the Republican Party too. If McCain, 71, plans on only serving one term because of his age, his choice of Vice President has to be somebody who can win in 2012. Can Rice? Can Romney? Or would somebody like Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty make more sense as a natural successor?
In the end, while Rice is a very attractive VP candidate because of both her tangibles and intangibles, I don't think she makes a lot of sense for McCain. Doubling down on the Iraq War, when the county wants out, and when the economy and the financial crisis is ever deepening doesn't make a lot of sense to me. But, her selection certainly would shake-up the 2008 election, and may help ensure Hillary Clinton is on the Democratic ticket, in one position or another.