Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has moved former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the top of his possible VP roster according to reports that first came out Thursday night. If true, Rice is a choice that could inject some much needed enthusiasm into the GOP’s campaign.
In an April CNN poll of Republicans, respondents favored Rice overwhelmingly and she drew the highest level of support as Romney’s potential running mate. The poll also revealed that Rice had the approval rating of 8 -10 Republicans.
As a former Secretary of State and National Security Adviser under George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice would certainly change the direction of the conversation.
In contrast to the 2004 election when national security was the focus of the campaign, this year the economy, with unemployment hovering about 8 percent, has been front-and-center. And Romney has struggled at times to demonstrate his commitment to free-market principles.
But it appears the Romney campaign is changing gears and wants to remind voters that the president is also America's commander in chief. Apart from the GOP debate sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute last fall, national security and foreign affairs have been largely absent from the 2012 presidential election discussion.
At a time when the economy seems to be the most visible threat to our security, it’s not clear if Americans will see this choice as a distraction. Still Rice is a symbol of international proficiency that should not be overlooked.
The Independent Women’s Forum honored Rice for her service in 2006 when we presented her with the Woman of Valor Award. It’s then that she discussed “the non-negotiable demands of human dignity:… the rule of law and limits on state power, free speech and tolerance of difference, freedom of worship, equal justice and property rights and finally, but not last, respect for women.”
What’s more, as the war on women narrative is intensifying, Rice can push back on this rhetoric and help put it into a global perspective – shedding light on the real atrocities that take place against women around the world.
At a time when the women’s vote is in play, she could have a real impact with women voters, sending a strong message to the Obama campaign that Republicans oppose the kind of cradle-to-grave policies the president has advanced in the name of “protecting” women.
Rice could also help articulate the message that women - and men - benefit from less government and more freedom in education, health care, entitlements, and the workplace.
A political science professor, Rice has recently been speaking out about education reform, criticizing the shortcomings of America’s K-12 system and supporting more competition in education through school choice.
Ultimately, however, this is still the bottom of the ticket, which historically doesn’t usually have a serious impact on voter behavior. Individual-level factors like demographics, registration laws and education might determine turnout more than the VP candidate. And even more important than who’s on the ticket could be a voter’s own sense of value to the election process.
So a better question to ask is: Does Condi Rice help restore feelings of political connectedness? Do her foreign policy bone fides span the partisan divide? Does Condi encourage feelings of civic engagement?
In the end, these are the questions the Romney campaign ought to ask. Because come next January it’s essential that the country move beyond the class warfare, the gender warfare, and the identity politics that have come to define this campaign.
Rice recently said, “It is time for all of us, in any way we can, to mobilize, get our act together, and storm Washington, D.C.” The question is: is that the spark that will ignite big change?
Sabrina Schaeffer is executive director of the Independent Women's Forum.