Matt Drudge’s conservative Drudge Report has broken the alleged news that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is the frontrunner to be Mitt Romney’s pick to be his vice presidential running mate.
The ridiculous speculation on Drudge Report is one of two things: either it’s Drudge fabricating a story out of virtually nothing to garner some traffic, or, someone in the Romney campaign clued Drudge in on the “fact” that Rice is the VP frontrunner, thus using Drudge — a prominent conservative media mogul — to float a trial balloon, while simultaneously diverting attention from the fact that Romney may have lied about when he left Bain Capital as CEO.
In this latter scenario, the Romney campaign intentionally “leaks” word that Rice is at the top of the VP short list, then waits for the news media — cable news and the blogosphere especially — to chew on it for a few days and see how it goes down. After that, no doubt a poll will be conducted asking voters’ opinions about the possibility of a Rice VP selection now that it seems almost imminent. Based on such reactions, the campaign would have a better handle on the viability of a Rice VP pick, and a final decision would be made on such feedback. In addition, the Romney camp changes the conversation from questions about when he left Bain, to whether he'll really pick Rice as his running mate.
But Mitt Romney is not going to pick Condoleezza Rice as his running mate; not because she doesn’t have experience (she does, especially being a veteran diplomat well-versed in the art of policymaking), but because she was a high-ranking official in the George W. Bush administration for eight years — four as national security adviser, and four as secretary of state. It has been less than four years since Bush left office as one of the most unpopular presidents in history, leaving behind a country in financial ruin, and with a military apparatus overworked from years of war in two countries. Choosing a top Bush administration official for VP, especially this soon, would give the Obama administration an endless supply of ammunition to attack Romney as another George W. Bush, which is exactly what Romney needs to avoid.
Rice was a prominent figure in the foreign policy of the Bush administration for its entire duration. And what does the American public feel about the two most significant foreign policy decisions of the that administration? Regardless of what Americans thought about the wars initially, the public no longer believes the U.S. mission in Afghanistan is worth the cost in lives and money, with 69% opposing it. Regarding Iraq, 59% of Americans say the war was a mistake. Does Drudge really want us to believe that one of the most senior Bush administration officials, who advocated for and oversaw these unpopular wars is now the top choice of the Romney campaign? Please.
A Rice VP pick would be a strategic mistake for Romeny at this stage in his campaign — though it has nothing to do with her capabilities.
Selecting her would be a signal from Romney that he wants to make a good deal of this campaign about foreign policy, which he simply can’t win on. President Obama has presided over the conclusion of the Iraq war, which Americans opposed, and after he increased the troop levels in Afghanistan, he commenced a draw-down. In addition, he also ordered the raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden, who eluded Rice’s Bush administration for more than seven years.
It should also be pointed out that Romney’s entire approach to foreign policy is unrealistic. He’s trying to out-hawk Obama, who has been incredibly hawkish, having increased troop levels in Afghanistan, vastly expanded drone strikes, and unilaterally bombed Libya for several months. But instinctively as a Republican, Romney has run to the right of Obama on foreign policy, which must necessarily give his foreign policy rhetoric a recklessly bellicose tone.
So is Drudge just trying to get some views? Or is someone in the Romney camp playing him like a fiddle to test Rice's viability as a VP candidate? Who knows and who cares? At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter because Condoleezza Rice will not be Mitt Romney’s running mate.
*Not that this should factor into the analysis, but for what it’s worth, Drudge has an atrocious record of making VP predictions, as The American Spectator notes.