Why Romney Won't Pick Condi

The Hill's Christian Heinze smacks down speculation that Condoleezza Rice might get tapped as Mitt Romney's running mate. Heinze offers one simple yet convincing explanation—Rice is pro-choice, an intolerable stance among the GOP base. It would be difficult for any Republican to convince the party of a pro-choice VP, but it’s a particularly acute challenge for Romney, a former moderate who has devoted himself to selling conservatives that he is in actuality one of them to only middling success.

Romney has spent the last six years trying to convince social conservatives that he's really, truly, actually, and honestly pro-life. Why would he destroy all of that by picking Condi? And make no mistake about it, all of that would be destroyed within ten minutes of announcing the pick.

And think about this. If John McCain opted out of picking the pro-choice Joe Lieberman because it would inspire full-scale revolt with the base, do you really think Romney would dare?

I think there is a far simpler and equally convincing explanation for why Romney will avoid selecting Condi. As I've explained previously, Romney's VP options are roughly divided into two camps: politicians from the first decade of the 2000s with the experience to be strong governing partners, or exciting newbies from the class of 2010 who will capture the zeitgeist of media attention. The latter class might draw attention, but since they're largely unvetted they carry risks that safe-guy Romney would rather avoid. However the first group carries their own baggage with direct ties to the George W. Bush era, a time that Romney and the Republican Party writ large have tried their best to wipe from the electorate's collective memory.

Few VP options are as directly associated with the Bush administration than Rice. Rob Portman and Mitch Daniels may have both overseen the Office of Management and Budget, but neither entered the popular conscience as major figures of the Bush era, while both have gone on to win elected office that will be listed as their primary qualification. Rice, however, has no claim to fame outside of her experience serving with Bush, first as a National Security Advisor, later as Secretary of State. She was one of the few individuals to stand by Bush's side for the duration of both terms. Romney's behind the scenes team is a complete revival of the Bush years, with policy proposals that take the goals of the 43rd president to the extreme. Yet Romney has done everything he can to distance himself from Dubya, seeking H.W.'s endorsement but ignoring Bush the younger, while pinning all of the country's economic woes on Obama by conveniently ignoring the recession start date during Bush's last year in office. Adding Rice to the ticket would allow the Obama campaign to run a referendum campaign against the president's still unpopular predecessor.

Comments

Rice had nothing to do with GW's economic policies, so I don't see that as a huge handicap. In terms of military policy, I think she could explain both the shift in GW's positions from term 1 to term 2 to the end of his presidency as a long arc, ending not too far from where the current President sits. She can describe how events (and Congress) can get out of control. For example, GW's position at the end of his eight years was that the prison at Guantanamo Bay be closed. How's that working out for Obama?

Her being "mildly pr-choice"? That's the real deal breaker. Were Romney solid on that issue it might be something he could get away with, but he's not. It's a sideshow issue, demagogued into center stage by charlatans and opportunists, but that's where the Republican Party presently stands.

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