Why Condoleezza Rice Would Make A Great Pick For Mitt's VP

AP Condoleezza Young

Early Thursday evening, Matt Drudge reported that Condoleezza Rice has “emerged as the frontrunner” as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick. It has been panned throughout the Twittersphere.

Some think it’s a deliberate attempt at a distraction from the bad news that piled up on the Romney campaign Thursday. Some think Drudge is floating the trial balloon for the Romney campaign to see how Rice is received. 

But Condi Rice could actually be a very smart pick for a number of reasons.

The first is a poll of actual Republicans and Republican-leaning voters (not people on Twitter), conducted by CNN/ORC in April after Romney wrapped up the Republican nomination. Republicans’ No. 1 choice? Condi. 

Condoleezza Rice

Photo: CNN/ORC

Rice out-polled everyone. She out-polled the loud and eccentric Gov. Chris Christie. She out-polled the early favourite, Sen. Marco Rubio. She out-polled Republicans’ favourite budget man, Rep. Paul Ryan. And Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, the current frontrunner on Intrade? He received less than one-half of 1 per cent of the vote.

Why? Because everyone loves Condi Rice. She has an 80 per cent favorability rating in the poll. That’s 25 points higher than the next candidate (Christie). 

Second, and maybe even more importantly, is the fact that Rice is a known commodity. Voters already know her, and they have decided that they like her. This YouGov poll found that she had the highest name recognition of any candidate other than Sarah Palin. (And no, that’s not going to happen again.) Among people who have heard of her, 70 per cent view her favourably. 

Why is Portman — widely perceived as a “safe” pick — actually a pretty risky VP choice? Because 70 per cent of voters have never heard of him. That makes him easier for the Obama campaign to define as a Bush operative. They can try to do the same with Rice, but it will prove much harder since many more voters have made up their minds. 

And while it’s clear that Rice appeals to Republicans, she also could win over moderates and swing voters. For one, she has spoken out harshly against President Barack Obama’s stance on immigration. That could help Romney make inroads among Hispanic voters.

Rice has also described herself as “moderately pro-choice.” That could help Romney with women. Rice is African-American, and could appeal to some voters Romney tried to lure, starting with a speech to the NAACP

Some or all of these could backfire with the Republican base. Still, if Palin is any barometer for how tea-party types would feel, that’s not the case. Here’s what she told Greta Van Susteren Thursday night:

“I would certainly prefer a presidential and vice presidential candidate who had that respect for all innocent, precious, purposeful human life, and showed that respect by being a pro-life candidate. We need to remember, though, that it’s not the vice president that would legislate abortion, that would be Congress’ role, and we will keep that in mind.”

It’s not really that far-fetched.

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