ELECTIONATE JULY 13, 2012
Last night, the Drudge Report tried to distract us from Bain with the hot new rumor that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice might be at the top of Romney’s list of possible veep candidates. While the rumor is intriguing, it’s almost assuredly false. Rice has never run for public office and has described herself as “pro-choice,” which is essentially disqualifying; after all, social conservatives are already justifiably skeptical of Romney's commitment to their causes. More basically, Romney has no incentive to make a wild card choice right now—in fact, it would subvert his only clear path to victory.
If Romney’s coalition wasn’t viable, a pick to shake up the race might be justified. But Romney has a route to victory: consolidate the preponderance of disaffected white working class voters. Is it tough? Yes and no. On the one hand, securing an overwhelming share of undecided voters is difficult, especially when you’re not particularly popular, vulnerable to attacks on your business record, and most view the President favorably. On the other hand, few of these voters approve of the President’s performance and most of them disapprove. Even if this path isn’t a cakewalk, it's the path Romney was dealt.
And if the Romney campaign wants to pursue this straightforward path to the presidency, a pick like Rice creates more risks than opportunities. Rice doesn't hold any special appeal for undecided white working class voters—and the possibility that her race might be a problem for a few of these voters can't be completely discounted. Her best asset—foreign policy expertise—doesn't address their economic concerns. Given the risks with social conservatives and a first-time candidate, Rice is a pretty poor fit.
She might make sense in one scenario, though: If the Romney campaign decided that their route to the White House was no longer viable. Perhaps if they believed that Bain would prevent them from securing necessary undecided voters, or they believed that non-white turnout would increase beyond 2008-levels. In this scenario, Romney would be looking for ways to break out of his narrow coalition and appeal to the minorities and well-educated whites who continue to offer elevated levels of support to the President. While Rice might not represent the best choice in either respect, a pro-choice woman could plausibly ameliorate the cultural fears of socially moderate women alienated by the GOP primary; an African American might help swing back a few of the traditionally Republican black voters who supported Obama in 2008.
If Romney selected Rice, it would be a sign of desperation: a last ditch effort to break out of a narrow path to victory. That calculus was understandable for McCain in 2008, but it would create unnecessary risks against a President with an approval rating beneath fifty percent. The current demographics of the race make it far more likely he'll choose another "boring white guy."