Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is being tugged from all sides as he prepares to choose his vice presidential running mate, but the pressure appears to be particularly intense from social conservatives.
What has animated them is speculation that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is on Romney's short list—and the conservatives aren't happy about it. Many of them praise Rice's talents as a foreign-policy expert but they oppose her for the "number two" job because she has said her views on abortion are "mildly pro-choice."
Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, says, "I contacted my contacts within the (Romney) campaign and said, 'You can't do this.'" Many conservatives say Romney shouldn't choose someone who is pro-choice because, Land told Newsmax, "that reactivates all the old doubts about whether pro-life is a preference or a conviction with the Romney administration."
If this happened, social conservatives warn that multitudes of voters on the right would not cast their ballots in the presidential race because they couldn't accept either Romney or President Obama.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a social conservative, television commentator, and presidential candidate in 2008, said choosing Rice would be "a disaster," and he said of social conservatives, "They'd sit on their hands. Absolutely they will."
This could particularly hurt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, in key swing states where social conservatives such as evangelical Christians are a powerful voting bloc, much like Florida and Virginia.
Speculation about who Romney is considering for the vice presidency include politicians who would be much more acceptable to social conservatives, including former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Marco Rubio of Florida.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," and is the author of "The Presidency" column in the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.