"Of course we don't want you Republicans to pick Condoleezza Rice as vice president," my female Democratic friend said to me. "Condi Rice is the Democrats' worst nightmare. We want Romney to put boring old Rob Portman on the ticket." I disagree with her that Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is boring, but let's leave that aside ... my friend is right about the fact that former Secretary of State Condi Rice is the Democrats' "worst nightmare."
When the Drudge Report first ran a story last week reporting that Rice was on Romney's vice presidential short list, the press was full of reactions from Republican insiders, many unnamed, saying that there was no way the base would put up with her being on the ticket: She may not be sufficiently conservative, they say; she's never held elected office; she reminds voters of the Bush administration; the list goes on. Those may be the opinion of liberal opinion writers and conservative talking heads, but I'm not sure it's really true of actual voters. Take a look at the numbers:
This week a Rasmussen poll of likely voters compared the favorability ratings of five potential Romney running mates—Rice, Portman, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Rice came out in the lead: Sixty-five percent of likely voters view her somewhat to very favorably; only 24 percent view her unfavorably. A Fox News survey released on Wednesday showed Republican voters back Rice by 30 percent, with Rubio a distant second at 19 percent, followed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ryan tied at 8 percent. The Rice numbers were the same for all voters Fox surveyed, not just Republican ones.
According to Politico's analysis of the Fox poll: "Rice also appears to provide tangible excitement for the hypothetical ticket. Without the former secretary of state, Romney receives 41 percent support compared with 56 percent for President Barack Obama. If Rice were added to the ticket, voters are split 46 percent each between Romney-Rice and Obama-Biden. In addition, Republican support for Romney increased by 5 points, from 84 percent to 89 percent, with Rice as his running mate."
So when Romney adds Rice to the ticket, he gets a five point bump with voters and increases his own support among Republicans. And when Rice is on the GOP ticket, Obama experiences a 10 point drop with voters and loses his lead. In a close race, that really is a nightmare for Democrats.
Those voters see what those inside-the-Beltway talking heads may have forgotten: that Condoleezza Rice was our first female National Security Adviser, our first female African-American Secretary of State, and the first female, the first African-American, and the youngest person ever named Provost of Stanford University. She's a world-class concert pianist and is easily one of the most prominent amateur musicians in the world. She's great on television and would run circles around Joe Biden in a debate; she's more than qualified to serve as president if needed, and has been in the White House situation room more times than anyone on the short list.
Condoleezza Rice's father, a minister, was the grandson of slaves. You can read about her childhood, growing up in Birmingham, Ala., where she witnessed the violence of the Klan many times. In her book Extraordinary, Ordinary Lives, she writes about her four girlfriends who were killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. I've read her book and highly recommend it. If you read it, you'll see why so many voters want her on the ticket, and why she's the last person the Democrats want to face Obama.
If Romney were to convince her to be his running mate, he'd send a signal that he is fighting for every vote—especially those of women and African Americans, who right now are being taken for granted by the Obama campaign. With apologies to Sarah Palin, Condi Rice really would be a game changer.