Tag Archives: Condi Rice

Condi! Condi! Condi! (Condi?)

Sometime in mid-August Mitt Romney will announce his vice-presidential choice.  Because it is a decision that will garner more than a little publicity, it is one of few planned campaign events, along with his convention speech and perhaps the first debate, that provides the potential to swing a few of the undecideds into his camp.  The smart money right now is on Ohio Senator Rob Portman, followed by former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Florida Senator Marco Rubio rounding out the top tier. The fiscal conservatives in the Republican base, meanwhile, are pushing for Representative Paul Ryan.  New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte’s name has also surfaced recently, as has New Mexico’s Governor Susana Martinez, fueled in party by Ann Romney’s statement that a woman was in the running.

Look, I understand the logic for choosing any of these individuals. Portman makes the most sense, of course – executive experience, knows Washington, DC and particularly budget politics and, of course, represents Ohio, which is perhaps the most important swing state in the election. Pawlenty has strong support among evangelicals and has already been vetted by virtue of nearly being named McCain’s running mate in 2008.  Rubio has ethnic appeal in another important swing state.

But really – do these names excite you?  I mean Tim Pawlenty?  There’s a reason Michelle Bachman crushed him in the Ames Straw poll! If we assume that by virtue of the economic fundamentals that President Obama’s natural support tops out at about 48% of the popular vote right now, this election is up for the taking – assuming the Mittster can win over a good chunk of those who are willing to vote for change, but need to be convinced that he’s the guy who can bring it.  What better way than by rejecting conventional wisdom in choosing your running mate?

Mitt should think big – and choose Condi Rice. Wait – before you label me “Matt Drudge”, hear me out. Yes, I know her view on abortion doesn’t comport with Mitt’s most recent one.  But the bottom line is: which candidate is most likely to swing those undecideds into Mitt’s column?  I say it’s Condi.  As evidence, consider these recent PPP polls in Pennsylvania and Michigan.  (These are automated polls conducted by telephone.)  In both states, PPP has Obama leading by comfortable margins; in Michigan, he leads Romney by 14 points, 53-39 (margin of error +/-4.1%), and in Pennsylvania by 6 points, 49-43 (m.o.e. +/-3.6%).  These results are almost unchanged from those in PPP polling a month ago.

A sizeable gender gap is a big reason for Obama’s lead in both states; women support him over Romney 59%-33% in Michigan and 54%-37% in Pennsylvania. But what happens if you put Condi on the ticket?  According to PPP, which polled a number of different VP possibilities in both states, Rice would boost Romney by 6 points in Michigan and in Pennsylvania.  That would move Mitt into a tie in the Keystone state and at least make Michigan more competitive.

None of the other three VP candidates – Portman, Pawlenty or Jindal – that PPP polled in these states had nearly the same impact. Indeed, Romney loses 1-2% in Michigan with any of those three as his VP.  All three have higher negatives than positives there.  In contrast, Condi is viewed favorably by 56%, unfavorably by only 28%, and Romney runs about 5-6% stronger among women with her on the ticket than with any of the other three.  The same is true among independents; Romney gains 2% among this group with Condi as his VP, but loses support if he chooses from the others.  She even boosts Mitt’s support among African-Americans by 5% (from 3% to 8%) and by a whopping 26% among the 18-29 year-old voting group.  Condi is hip!

In Pennsylvania it is a similar story. Condi has huge favorability numbers (60%) and she’s the only VP candidate that boosts Mitt’s numbers against the President. Although the gender payoff among women with Rice on the ticket is only marginally better, she gains Mitt 15% among independents, giving him a 46-38% lead among this group.  She’s even viewed favorably by Democrats in Pennsylvania (47%-38%) and in Michigan (41%-40%).

These results come on the heels of a Fox News poll released a week ago that showed Condi as the clear frontrunner among respondents for the VP slot, with 30% preferring her on the ticket compared to only 12% supporting Rubio, who came in second. Among women, she was easily the top choice, backed by 33%.  In that poll, Obama led Romney overall by 45%-41%.  But with Rice on the ticket, Romney pulled even with the President, at 46% a piece. She boosts his support among independents by 6% and among women by 5%.

Can you say “game changer”?

But wait. Before you buy your “Rice is Nice” t-shirt and “I’m Randy for Condi” coffee mug, keep in mind that these are hypothetical matchups. Much of Rice’s polling advantage in the PPP polls is likely rooted in her much higher name recognition compared to the lesser-known trio of men.  And in the heat of a campaign, when opposition research will remind voters of her record in the Bush administration and those unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, those favorability numbers are sure to drop.   It is also true that many Republican conservatives aren’t enamored of her. As I noted, she’s mildly pro-choice.  She also supports affirmative action in some cases.

In assessing a Mitt-Condi ticket, however, the alternative is not some ideal vice president – it’s one of these other individuals, all of whom have their own liabilities.  And some of Condi’s weaknesses – particularly her somewhat moderate social views – will actually play well in the general electorate.  I’m not one who thinks Mitt needs to shore up his base – I think he needs to win over the undecided moderates.  In theory, Condi can do this.  It is true she’s never run for office so we can’t be sure how she will do on the stump.  Reportedly in small-group settings she routinely wows her audience – a good sign for the fundraising circuit.

In previous posts I’ve cautioned that the vice presidential choice rarely has an impact on the general election, and I stand by that generalization. But as I’ve noted before, in a close election, even a marginal impact can be the difference between winning and losing.

Yes, I know she has said she won’t run.  But would she really turn down a direct request to serve her country?  I don’t think so.

Condi. She’s got southern roots, Washington, DC experience, foreign policy expertise and she plays a mean piano too.  I can see her now, surrounded by foreign dignitaries in the White House, belting out the theme from “Evita”.

Quite the prodigy, wasn’t she?

Condi for Vice President. What’s not to like?

P.S.  The Miller Center has a nice piece discussing whether the VP choice will make a difference.



The VP Pick: Fool Me Once….

If history is a reliable guide, the media’s self-flagellation for chasing after the vice presidential rumor proffered by Matt Drudge is richly deserved – but probably not for the reason media sources cite.  As you may recall on July 12 Drudge flashed the headline on his Drudge Report site trumpeting  “ROMNEY NARROWS VP CHOICES; CONDI EMERGES AS FRONTRUNNER”.   The Daily Beast’s Lauren Ashburn recounts what happened next: “[I]in typical fashion, the media—knowing the claim had little basis in reality—went along for the ride. The Today show, Good Morning America, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, even The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, along with plenty of others, took the bait and devoted countless minutes and column inches to the tale.

The speculation spread like wildfire across the web, with The Daily Beast and Politico taking the “scoop” and running with it, spicing up the summer’s otherwise ennui-inducing campaign with titillating, but meaningless catnip journalism.”

In the end, most journalists concluded that Drudge’s “scoop” was unfounded, with some suggesting it may have been a plant by the Romney campaign to divert attention from the ongoing debate regarding when Romney actually left Bain Capital as CEO.  That triggered the round of media self-reproach and recriminations, as the “respectable” members of the fourth estate analyzed why Drudge was able, once again, to lead them on a merry chase to pin down false information.  As more than one journalist pointed out, there was almost no chance Rice would get the nomination; her pro-choice views and foreign policy role during the Bush presidency made her politically unpalatable to Romney and many voters.

I think the media was right, but for the wrong reasons.  In fact, Rice is a viable, albeit probably a riskier, vice presidential choice for several reasons.  First, I don’t think her pro-choice views are nearly as debilitating, now that Mitt has clinched the nomination, as critics suggest.  Heck, Mitt was pro-choice at one point, so he certainly can sympathize with that perspective. And excuse me if I don’t think Mitt’s “promise” not to select a pro-choice vice president candidate is ironclad. In fact, Condi’s views are closer to most independents on this issue than are Mitt’s. More importantly, however, abortion is simply not a very important issue for most voters in this election cycle.

Second, while most of the media focus on the geographical and coalitional impact of the VP choice, there is another dimension to that selection that is often underplayed: how well the VP compensates for the presidential candidate’s perceived weaknesses. Dick Cheney wasn’t tapped by George Bush to swing Wyoming, and its three Electoral College votes, into the Republican column. He was chosen for his foreign policy credentials as a way of balancing Bush’s lack of expertise in this area.  Condi could serve a similar role for Romney – she brings both foreign policy expertise and a wealth of inside connections in the foreign policy establishment to the table.  These are assets Romney could utilize once in the Oval Office, much as Obama has benefitted from Joe Biden’s knowledge of Senate personalities and procedures.  And, of course, there is the obvious benefit of placing an African-American woman on the ticket.

This is not to say selecting Rice is without risk. Rob Portman or Mitch Daniels or even (yawn) Tim Pawlenty, are safer picks.  But if Mitt wants to think big, Rice should be in the running.

So was the Drudge rumor viable?  No, but because the timing for announcing a VP selection was wrong.  It is one thing to tease a vice presidential pick some six weeks before the party’s nominating convention, but it would be unprecedented to announce it!  Peter Cahill dug up  the dates on which presidents in the modern post-McGovern Fraser selection era, going back to Jimmy Carter in 1976, announced their vice presidential choices. The dates are shown in the following table.

 Year Candidate VP Pick Date Before Convention
1976 Jimmy Carter Walter Mondale 7/15/1976 0
1976 Gerald Ford Bob Dole 8/19/1976 0
1980 Ronald Reagan George H.W. Bush 7/17/1980 0
1980 Jimmy Carter Walter Mondale Incumbent .
1984 Ronald Reagan George H. W. Bush Incumbent .
1984 Walter Mondale Geraldine Ferraro 7/12/1984 4
1988 George H. W. Bush Dan Quayle 8/17/1988 0
1988 Michael Dukakis Lloyd Bentsen 7/12/1988 6
1992 Bill Clinton Al Gore 7/9/1992 4
1992 George H.W. Bush Dan Quayle Incumbent .
1996 Bill Clinton Al Gore Incumbent .
1996 Bob Dole Jack Kemp 8/10/1996 2
2000 George W. Bush Dick Cheney 7/25/2000 6
2000 Al Gore Joe Lieberman 8/8/2000 6
2004 George W. Bush Dick Cheney Incumbent .
2004 John Kerry John Edwards 7/6/2004 20
2008 Barack Obama Joe Biden 8/23/2008 2
2008 John McCain Sarah Palin 8/29/2008 2
2012 Barack Obama Joe Biden Incumbent .
2012 Mitt Romney ????????? ?

As you can see, with the exception of John Kerry in 2004, who announced John Edwards as his pick some 20 days before the Democratic convention, every other candidate has waited almost until his party’s nominating convention to formally announce his pick. The reason, of course, is that by unveiling the vice president nominee during or shortly before the convention, the candidate is trying maximize the suspense and heighten the audience for the convention itself, which is now viewed as the kickoff for the general election campaign.  Some of you may recall the absolutely electrifying speech Sarah Palin gave at her unveiling as McCain’s running mate in 2008.  Not coincidentally, her speech triggered the only post-Labor Day period in which McCain led Obama in the aggregate polling data.

Given this purpose, it didn’t make much sense for Romney to waste the one-shot and limited impact of the VP announcement by pulling the trigger in mid-July, six weeks before the Republican convention in Tampa.  This doesn’t preclude teasing the announcement, and even describing it as imminent. But to actually announce the choice?  Bain controversy notwithstanding, it almost certainly wasn’t going to happen, despite Drudge’s rumormongering.  Indeed, my best guess is that Romney won’t announce his pick until late August.  This will also give his team more time to vet the prospective nominee and, if necessary, float some trial balloons as a way of gauging public reaction. Who knows?  It might even be Condi!

(My apologies for the initial formatting problems with the table – Excel was misbehaving.  I think the errors are all fixed.)