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The pros and cons of Condi

By Dana Bash, CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent
updated 7:13 PM EDT, Fri July 13, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A Drudge Report exclusive has stoked speculation about Condi Rice as a potential VP pick
  • Rice would be a political two-fer as a African-American woman running mate
  • Rice's support for abortion rights would by problematic for social conservatives
  • Rice herself has said fairly decisively that she is not interested in the job

(CNN) -- Condoleezza Rice for vice president?

Before we go A-to-Z with pros and cons, let's start with why Romney's team might have floated the Condi trial balloon now.

If you were anywhere near a television this week you saw Mitt Romney getting booed at the NAACP convention for saying he would repeal Obamacare. It was running on a virtual loop all over cable news.

Romney draws boos from NAACP, support from conservatives

Then, suddenly, an exclusive report about a black woman being considered as Romney's running mate pops up on the Drudge Report.

Report sparks speculation of Romney-Rice ticket

Romney: 'Nothing to say' on VP process
'Rice for VP' rumor gains momentum
Rice looking back on Iraq

GOP sources say Matt Drudge is the go-to guy for a top Romney aide when he wants to change a narrative about his candidate.

Now that we've gotten the "why now" out of the way, why not explore Rice the running mate. By most Republicans' accounts, at the end of this report, you will see why Rice will likely not be Romney's pick

The pros

There are many, beginning with the obvious: She is a black Republican woman, a political two-fer. And having a female on the ticket would make the influential Ann Romney happy. Mrs. Romney told CBS News earlier this month that they have been "looking at that and I love that option."

Rice has never run for office but she is no stranger to presidential politics. She was by George W. Bush's side during both of his campaigns.

She's an intellectual known for her powerhouse smarts and she has a good personal story. Rice was the only child of a black family growing up in the segregated South, whose fortitude landed her in unlikely GOP foreign policy circles.

Rice is also a bit of a Renaissance woman. She is a concert pianist with a love of football. Her real dream job is to be NFL commissioner.

The former secretary of state and national security adviser would bring some needed foreign policy chops to Romney's ticket.

The cons

She was a central Bush administration player making the public case for the Iraq war, warning about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to exist.

"There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," Rice told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in September 2002.

Some GOP sources tell CNN say they can't imagine Romney would want to reopen wounds from the Bush years -- especially about what even Republicans call a mismanaged war.

Rice is also at odds with the GOP base on immigration, telling CNN's Candy Crowley not passing her boss's legislation allowing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants was one of her biggest regrets.

Last but hardly least is Rice's stance on abortion. She calls herself "mildly pro-choice."

This is the reason you can sum up social conservative reaction to the Rice trial balloon with one word: nonstarter.

Veteran conservative voice Richard Viguerie, one of the founders of the Moral Majority, said the notion of Romney picking Rice as his running mate would be a "slap in the face" to conservatives.

While Viguerie took issue with Rice's position on abortion, he said she was part of those to blame for Republican losses in 2006 and 2008 which gave rise to the "tea party rebellion of 2010."

"Putting Condoleeza Rice at the top of the VP short list is an insult to the conservatives, tea partiers and independents that are looking for a break with the old establishment Republican Washington that Rice represents," he said.

Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, a longtime friend of Romney's, bluntly told CNN that Rice's stance on abortion disqualifies her.

"I love Condi Rice, I'd love to see her in any role in Romney administration except vice president," Land told CNN in a telephone interview.

The issue, he said, isn't so much Rice -- it's Romney.

Conservatives already mistrust Romney on abortion, since he was in favor of abortion rights when he was governor of Massachusetts, a relatively liberal state on the issue.

"It would give oxygen again to all of those concerns and doubts about whether the Romney administration will be there when it really counts. Is it [his abortion stance] a preference and a conviction?" Land asked.

He said putting Rice on the ticket would suppress conservative turnout.

Rice speculation stokes conservative reaction

"What it would do is turn some activists and contributors into mere voters and turn some voters into fishermen," he said.

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council agreed.

"I think the governor needs someone that undergirds his stated pro-life position because of policy positions that he's taken when he was governor. He has since changed those positions to be clearly pro-life but to underscore that and to reemphasize that especially with social conservative voters, he has to have a running mate that has impeccable, impeccable pro-life credentials," Perkins said.

The Susan B. Anthony List, a leading anti-abortion group, already e-mailed around a clip of Romney during the GOP primary race last year saying that the running mate he would consider would be anti-abortion.

"I would expect that they would all be pro-life and pro-traditional marriage," Romney said in September 2011.

Romney was more explicit on the campaign trail in February.

"My vice presidential nominee will be pro-life," Romney said at a rally in Shelby, Michigan.

Despite widespread suspicion about the late-night Rice-for-VP leak, GOP sources tell CNN some of Romney advisers are pushing for her -- so much so that a prominent evangelical leader told CNN he called the campaign last week to ask about it -- and warned that picking Rice would be a big mistake.

Condi's view

The Bush albatross and her position on abortion aside, there is one big reason Rice the running mate is unlikely to happen: She doesn't want the job.

Rice has said this in more of an airtight way than other contenders being buzzed about.

"I cannot imagine myself running for office," she told CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight" in January. "Not because politics are so tough, but it's just not me."

"There is no way that I will do this because it's really not me. I know my strengths and Governor Romney needs to find someone who wants to run with him. There are many people who will do it very, very well. I'll support the ticket," Rice reiterated on CBS News last month.

What is Rice's response to the Drudge "exclusive?"

This may speak for itself: She didn't respond to an e-mail and her chief of staff told us her past comments stand, and that she is on vacation and not available for further comment.

CNN producer Rebecca Stewart contributed to this report.

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