Now that Mitt Romney has become the presumptive Republican nominee for President, thoughts are turning towards his Vice Presidential pick. The best choice he could make would be Condoleezza Rice.
First, a personal admission. I support President Obama in his re-election bid. But if his opposition were Romney-Rice, I’d take an Obama loss without too much dismay. Though Romney seems to have sold his soul to the right wing to get the nomination, most of his history shows him as a moderate. Rice is a foreign policy realist who helped craft the policy shift in 2006 that turned Iraq from an unmitigated disaster into a non-issue. The US didn’t achieve its goals, but we were able to get out — a Nixonian “peace with honor” (which had been crafted by another realist-academic, Henry Kissinger).
Rice has the temperment, knowledge and background to be ready for the Presidency on day one. If Romney loses, this could catapult her to the top of the 2016 list of GOP possibilities. Unlike the current crop of uninspiring ideologues, Rice could reflect a Republican party more open, diverse, and pragmatic than before. While the right wing of the GOP makes waves, the nominations of both McCain and Romney show that the centrists still dominate at the polls.
In 2012 a black woman as VP candidate would likely diffuse a lot of the negatives around Romney concerning gender and race. Yet given her background it would not be seen as a cynical attempt at a overtly political game changer. That was what McCain did when he picked Palin and it exploded in his face. Rice would be a safe pick, nobody would doubt her intelligence and qualifications.
Team Obama has been riding the wave of improving poll numbers, a slowly improving economy and an opponent with high unfavorable ratings. The Democratic base is becoming more enthused, the GOP base is wary. Choosing Rice could inject real vitality into the Romney campaign. It would also signal to independents that he’s not beholden to the right wing of the GOP and will be focused on governing pragmatically. That could be enough to convince a lot of independents currently turned off by the ideologically charged GOP primary season to move to Romney.
To me the choice seems obvious — if Rice wants the slot, she should be offered it. As speculation grows Rice is saying no — she does not want to be Vice President. That was also the position Joe Biden took four years ago. Does she mean it, or could Romney persuade her to run? I suspect he could persuade her — few potential VPs say that they want the job before it’s offered.
Often the Vice President makes little difference in the race, and if Romney goes for the so called “vanilla” candidates like Daniels or McDonnell it probably won’t matter. Romney is unlikely to make a catastrophic choice like McCain did four years ago, but could really benefit his campaign by choosing Rice. This is Romney’s first “Presidential” decision. Let’s see how he does.