Readers here know that ever since the Republican primary race ‘finished up’ (in that John McCain became the presumptive nominee), I focused on the Democratic side of things. Not only because it would prove to be more interesting, but because I genuinely want to see Barack Obama win the primary race, and go on to win the presidential election.
Anyway, when irregularly I’ll rope in some Republican news, but today, this post is all concerned with Republicans. In as much as the same way Al Gore’s name was brought up to create buzz around the impending presidential election, and who would be the running mate of who, another name has been mentioned as to a possible running mate of John McCain. While I still think it’s safe to assume Mike Huckabee is in the first position, and Mitt Romney the 2nd (though this doesn’t mean either are guaranteed the position yet), a new name might have jumped up to the top 5 considerations. The person? Condoleeza Rice.
For a long time, Rice has been dogged by the question of will she run, especially after she got her promotion to Secretary of State, and when Hillary Clinton became front runner in 2005 for the primary race. The idea of woman vs. woman was such a compelling thought that a few books came out, saying that that would be the November race: Rice vs. Clinton. I thought the idea was ludicrous on two levels – first, that the Republicans would nominate a woman; second (and the biggest of the two), that Republicans would nominate a black person.
That idea floated in the pool for a while, until eventually it drowned. Rice regularly said that she had no intention of running. Over and over again, until the idea just died. Then it was given a breath of life when the primary campaigning kicked to life in November/December of 2007, which just prior to, Rice was rated the most powerful person in Washington (by political polling) due to her position, influence, and ability. And, again, she had to keep denying the idea of her running for office. It died down again, but would pop up every now and then. Like in February:
Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice … made a rare appearance at the State Department’s press briefing room Friday and talked politics. She told the packed room of reporters that she has no interest in running for Vice President on the 2008 Republican ticket. Instead, she says, her next stop will be California.
“I have always said that the one thing that I have not seen myself doing is running for elected office in the United States,” Rice said. “I didn’t even run for high-school President, Rice joked, “It’s not in my genes.”
Rice added that there are “very good people running for the American people to make their choices. I will be making my choice as a voter and that’s going to be fun after a campaign in 2000 in which I was extremely involved.” Rice says she is not involved at all in this campaign.
It was the same sort of answer, though “It’s not in my genes” was a new line. Anyway, I never got caught up in the idea that it could happen as much as others (though I would actually be very interested in the race if it did happen).
Finally, come April, Dan Senor, a Fox News contributor and of various political associations (all Republican), said that Rice has been, in recent weeks, maybe months, positioning herself to be the pick for vice president on McCain’s ticket. Transcript of Senor’s interview here. Basically, here are the arguments in his theory (edited by me for brevity) from Hannity and Colmes:
SENOR: And I think it’s a very difficult job to campaign for or ask for. I think if she were asked to do it, she would do it. I think the challenge for her, which she recognizes, is that there are some concerns among some conservatives about her being on a ticket. So she’s actually been pretty good recently about reassuring conservatives that she would be there for them and her message and narrative are compelling as far as they’re concerned, and she — and I heard from a number of conservative political leaders in the last couple of weeks, who have met with her, who have seen her speak, and that she felt very reassured by her and want her to run.
HANNITY: Well, you’ve got the Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, that … meet and they are conservatives and she went there.
SENOR: Right. So there’s about 100 or 150 of these conservative political leaders that aren’t — it’s not necessarily foreign policy issues. They deal with economic issues.
HANNITY: Mostly taxes.
SENOR: Mostly taxes, right. Socially political issues, and he organizes meetings every Wednesday. It’s sort of a “who’s who” among some of the political leadership within Washington and they typically have political types come briefed on various policy issues and political issues. She came.
HANNITY: She came. On her own?
SENOR: Well, I.
HANNITY: Was she invited?
SENOR: I presumed they negotiated something. But it’s rare for a secretary of state. You can’t imagine Secretary Baker or Secretary George Schultz or one of these former Republican.
SENOR: There have been a couple of people close to her who have made the case to me in the past that she would be a good vice president. But this is coming — keep on, this is reporting that is coming from conservative political leaders that have met with Secretary Rice, who incidentally think she would be great if she’s on the ticket.
COLMES: Has she told them she wants the job?
SENOR: You would have to ask them.
SENOR: The McCain campaign as some point is going to have to consider, what is the right profile for the ticket? Right? You can go one route, which is the sort of unknown, fresh face, outsider, someone to balance out McCain, balance out his Washington experience, or someone to reinforce all of his years of experience and security.
Anyone who has watched Hannity and Colmes knows that it’s a left-wing host and a right-wing host, talking about political news, and they have guests on through the show. Colmes is the lefty, Hannity is the righty. Colmes was quick to point out that Rice’s office had said Senor has no connection with Rice, and doesn’t know anything about her future plans, that she had repeatedly denied wanting the job, has said she wants to go back to lecturing, and that (most glaringly obvious) it would be McCain hooking up with a President Bush-confidant. Already Democrats are saying that a vote for McCain is another vote for Bush, but with someone from his administration as responsible for his foreign policy mess-ups as Bush himself, then it will be impossible to create distance between a McCain administration, and the Bush administration.
I, for the record, have believed for some time in what Colmes has to say about picking Rice. It would be a gutsy, but quite possibly suicidal decision.
The fallout from this interview began early. Rice coped it first, and she said:
I very much look forward to watching this campaign and voting as a voter. I have a lot of work to do and then I’ll happily go back to Stanford.
Then McCain got the questions. He said, of the rumours that she was maneuvering for the position, that he must have ‘missed those signals’, and:
I think she’s a great American. I think there’s very little that I can say that isn’t anything but the utmost praise for a great American citizen, who served as a role model to so many millions of people in this country and around the world.
Political pundits weighed in on the decision too. I won’t quote them all, just Gloria Borger, CNN political analyst, as a segway:
Obviously, as an instantly recognizable national figure, Condi Rice would have to appear on any vice-presidential list.
And she certainly would add star power to a ticket. The next day, polling data came out that indicated the McCain/Rice ticket would beat a Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton ticket by 3% or 5% respectively in the state of New York! I know it would be presumptive to say this would be the finite outcome, but for any poll to not lean towards the Democrats in New York is quite a shock, especially with Clinton leading the ticket. Witha +/- 4% error rate, and a sampling size of 576 registered New York voters, it was quite a surprise to read this. Any ideas of the Democrats winning the White House back includes the assumption that New York and California don’t even have to be defended, much less brought into question. If any Republican ticket could challenge one of the bluest of blue states, I think the party and the candidate would have second thoughts about saying no to that prospect straight off the bat. CNN carried the story, and it topped the most read article section for quite a few days. It seemed like a popular hypothetical, much like Al Gore getting in on the race too.
Anyway, Rice was then trotted up to the Hill to give evidence on the use of torture by U.S. officials on detainees and prisoners. The documents of discussions tabled by Rice (discussions and meetings that she herself chaired) indicated that the use of torture by Americans has been so thought out as discussed that there is no way to remove Rice, Bush, or the current administration from the pro-torture argument. The specific methods and amount of times CIA agents could use torture as a method of interrogation was approved by Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, former National Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former CIA Director George Tenet, and former Attorney General John Ashcroft. These documents pretty much sealed the fate of Rice not getting the V.P. slot with McCain – McCain is one of the few Republican politicians that genuinely oppose and speak-out against torture. Maybe it’s because he was tortured at the hands of the Vietnamese as a P.O.W.?
Anyway, as much as a great hypothetical race as could be thought up when Rice’s name was in the mix, it seems out of reach now. I know that you should never say never in politics, but this is a very, very, very remote possibility. I don’t expect it or think it will happen. I still think Mike Huckabee is heading McCain’s “list of 20”, with Romney coming in next. The problem for McCain is that he doesn’t have as much free-reign in picking his running mate if he wants to win. He is struggling with his party base still, so he needs someone secure with them. If he himself was sound in getting the hard-right’s vote, he could probably run with a woman or a more moderate. But he really has that ‘outsider’ position saved for himself, so he needs to pick an insider. Tim Pawlenty (Governor of Minnesota), and Charlie Crist (Governor of Florida), both from swing states, are probably up the list too. Pawlenty is currently serving as co-chairman of John McCain’s campaign – so he is positioned well for the slot. So too Crist – he endorsed McCain early, and regularly receives praise from McCain. Rounding out the five would be Governor of Texas Rick Perry. He should be very sound with the party base. Just check out his policy positions. While Texas isn’t a swing state by any shot, this is a candidate who is a sure-fire favourite among conservatives and the sort of person to be set-up for in 4/8 years time, should the Republicans stage the impossible and win. A long shot (though maybe not as long as some might think) is Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin. She’s not as conservative as some of the previous names mentioned, but probably more than McCain. Again, not from a swing state, but a woman, a conservative, a record of cutting government spending, good positions (for her party, and for winning independent voters) on some policies, and young and ‘attractive’ all helps her in getting a mention on the list I would think.
Oh the possibilities. I could go on for some time, but I think my list of 6 (Huckabee, Romney, Pawlenty, Crist, Perry, Palin) is something I’m happy to settle on. If it isn’t one of them, then it’s a wildcard.