Rumors of Condoleezza Rice becoming Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential running mate has increased significantly after internet pioneer Matt Drudge reported that she is “near the top” of his shortlist.
Mitt Romney could name his running mate as early as next week, significantly before the traditional time of just before the party convention in late August.
He is widely expected to name a safe, unexciting figure in order to keep the focus of the election on President Barack Obama’s record.
Condoleezza Rice, President George W. Bush’s national security adviser for four years and then his Secretary of State, would be a stunning choice and fly in the face of almost everything Mitt Romney himself and his advisers have indicated they want in a running mate.
Matt Drudge used his Drudge Report website to tease readers with an “exclusive” story: “a surprise name is now near the top of the list: Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice!”
He added: “It was Condi who received two standing ovations at Romney’s Utah retreat a few weeks ago, and everyone left with her name on their lips.”
The Stanford University professor has never run for office or faced anything like the intense personal scrutiny vice-presidential candidates have to go through. She has no domestic policy experience and has said he favors abortion rights – a position that would make her anathema to conservatives and some independent voters.
She is very closely associated with George W. Bush and the unpopular Iraq war and has no executive experience. After the 2008 election, she hinted strongly that she voted for Barack Obama rather than Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee.
Aged 57, Condoleezza Rice has never married and is seen as something of an introvert. She has repeatedly made clear over the years that she does not believe she is cut out for the rigors of a political campaign.
The floating of her name could well be a ploy to shift the subject of political conversation away from Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital, which is currently taking a hammering, and to appeal to women voters, who tend to lean Democratic. As a black woman, she would also have some appeal to minority voters and independents.
Presidential candidates often indicate they are considering unusual choices and almost always indicate that a woman or a minority is under consideration, in large part to placate different party and voting constituencies.
But Mitt Romney has strongly indicated he will go for a middle-aged white man with executive experience or a Washington track record that goes beyond foreign policy.
His advisers are determined to avoid repeating what they see as the mistake John McCain made in 2008 when he gambled on an inexperienced female – Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska – as his running mate.
Senator Rob Portman of Ohio and Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, are considered the favorites.
Also very much in the running are Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, while Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida are much more likely picks than Condoleezza Rice.
Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico probably have a stronger chance than Ms Rice. Senator John Thune of South Dakota and Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia are also frequently mentioned.
Senior Romney foreign policy advisers like John Bolton, George W. Bush’s hardline ambassador to the UN, are highly skeptical about Ms Rice’s abilities. The memoirs of Vice President Dick Cheney, who holds a fundraiser in Wyoming for Romney this week, and Donald Rumsfeld, depict her unfavourably.
Condoleezza Rice spoke to Mitt Romney donors at the Utah retreat last month and was well received. She later told CBS News: “I talked about the need for American leadership; I talked about the importance of the United States to a more peaceful world, a world that has been quite turbulent in recent years and needs a strong American anchor.
“But I also talked about the essence of America, and perhaps that’s what people resonated with.”
In the same interview she dampened speculation that she might be Mitt Romney’s running mate: “I didn’t run for student council president. I don’t see myself in any way in elective office.”
Condoleezza Rice added: “I’m saying there is no way I will do this, because it’s really not me, I know my strengths. Governor Romney needs to find someone who wants to run with him. There are many people who will do it very, very well, and I’ll support the ticket.”
The news came as Barack Obama apologized for not inspiring the public enough as president, telling CBS This Morning he regretted “thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right”.