As the race towards November edges closer, so does one of the most important decisions former governor Mitt Romney will have to make. A vice presidential pick has the ability to fire up the base, attract independent voters, appeal to certain key demographics, and complement the person at the head of the ticket. All of these objectives are essential to the presumptive Republican nominee’s effort to win the White House.
But due to Senator John McCain’s imprudent choice in the last contest, Sarah Palin, the selection this time around will be scrutinized even closer than it has been in the past. As he has stressed over and over again in interviews, Romney will choose someone who is prepared to be president should something happen to him while in office, a direct rejection of the Sarah Palin choice. While Romney wants to pick someone who will aim to satisfy at least some of the aforementioned aims, he does not want to be too obvious in trying to appeal to one group or another or make a choice too safe that it would add nothing to the ticket.
A few options:
Senator Rob Portman: While he would reinforce the campaign’s focus on the economy, he seems too boring and he has a direct tie to the Bush-era economy as the former Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Senator Marco Rubio: His appeal to the Latino community and Florida voters is intriguing, but he appears too inexperienced to meet the criteria needed in this election.
Governor Chris Christie: Though his high popularity in a Democratic state and a personality that provides a strong contrast with Romney’s looks like it is exactly what the campaign needs to shake up the base, his explosive attitude has gotten him into trouble in the past and will likely do so in the future, something that those at Romney headquarters want to avoid (though I think he would be an excellent choice for the top of the ticket in 2016 or 2020).
While this is clearly not an exhaustive list, having not given reasons for other possible choices being sub-optimal, I would like to recommend someone who has come up rather infrequently when it comes to the veepstakes until very recently.
In mid-April, a CNN/ORC Poll of eight possible choices showed that among Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP, 80 percent held a favorable opinion of this person and 26 percent would like to see this person as Romney’s number-two. Though it may come as a surprise, this person is none other than former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.
Respected, intelligent, and in essence the anti-Palin, Rice has many of the qualities that would strengthen Romney’s effort to win the presidency. Yes, she is black and yes, she is a woman. These would of course help energize parts of the electorate that don’t feel as connected to Romney or the GOP, but the reason why she should be chosen far transcends these demographics.
Romney’s extremely successful career in the private sector as a businessman helps him when he talks about the economy, the most important issue of this election. If the economy continues to stall, as I expect it will, Romney will further benefit from this fixed message. However, another crucial issue for November is foreign policy, an area where Romney does not seem to be as comfortable (with the exception of U.S.-Israel relations). Iran is on the brink of obtaining nuclear weapons. China and Russia don’t cooperate with our government and other Western governments when dealing with the Arab Spring. Romney needs someone who commands respect and has proven experience.
Now, I know what you are thinking: Rice was one of the people at the helm of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars during the now-loathed Bush administration – she cannot possibly be chosen. But, the poor economy is the number-one issue and it is the main criticism that President Obama blames his predecessor for starting, not foreign policy. Therefore, Rice’s connection with the Bush administration is not as detrimental as one may argue. The campaign can continue to push the “outsider” theme because of her professorship at Stanford. Romney and Rice could portray themselves as being above the fray.
Critics also argue that she is, in her words, “mildly pro-choice.” I also don’t see this as a negative, but as a positive, because this view will appeal more to the independent voters at the center. Those to the far right will be disappointed in the pick for this reason and some say they may contemplate staying home in November. But it must be noted that they are so rabidly against the president, they would much rather vote for a ticket with a pro-life candidate at the top of the ticket and a mildly pro-choice candidate at the bottom of the ticket than not vote at all, which would hand the election to the pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-tax president and vice president in office now.
After the poll, the media brought Rice up here and there, but she didn’t get nearly as much press as Rubio or Portman, to name a few. However, after the Drudge Report’s headliner that she has moved to the top of Romney’s shortlist, her name began to frequently come up in the press. Even before this, she has increased her presence on the national political scene and has become more active in Romney’s campaign. She spoke at an exclusive Romney weekend fundraiser in Utah, where attendees had to pay $50,000, and received rave reviews – click here to listen to the audio. Rice also recently became involved in a Super PAC, called ShePAC, for conservative women.
Not to anyone’s surprise, like all other potential nominees, she avoids the subject and completely rejects her being chosen as Romney’s number-two, quite expertly I may add – she proclaimed in a CBS interview, “there is no way I will do this,” unlike the other shortlisters who waver and vacillate.
If Romney is serious about winning this November, he needs to make a bold choice. Unlike McCain, this bold choice will not be made haphazardly. By picking Rice, Romney can broaden the ticket with regard to vital issues where he is lacking and help close Obama’s lead in key demographics that are crucial to success in this election. As the race continues to heat up, choosing Rice may very well be the game-changer that the Romney campaign, and the country, desperately needs.