The women lit up the stage tonight during the primetime speeches at the RNC. Condoleezza Rice and Susana Martinez gave two of the best and most well received speeches of the conference.
Rice brought her vast experience to fore in discussing national security and foreign policy. Uncharacteristically, she veered into domestic issues, immediately given rise to speculation that she may be positioning herself for a run at Governor of California. Steven Schmidt, of MSNBC, said that Rice could restore the Republican Party to office in California.
Rice without ever mentioning Obama by name took the president to task on foreign policy. The former secretary of state delivered a sharp rejection of his foreign policy tonight, charging that the White House had forsaken past and potential allies, leaving the world to wonder, "Where does America stand?"
Rice followed Senator John McCain and returned to an often-heard criticism of Obama not providing leadership in matters of foreign affairs. Rice criticized Obama on his handling of Libya and Syria. On leadership, Rice said, "One of two things will happen if we don't lead: no one will lead and there will be chaos or someone will fill the vacuum who does not share our values." "We do not have a choice, we cannot be reluctant to lead and you cannot lead from behind." She also criticized the president’s trade policy saying, “Sadly we are abandoning the field of free and fair trade, and it will come back to haunt us."
But it was her comments on domestic issues that generated the most buzz. Rice touched on the importance of a comprehensive energy policy and expanding school choice to more students suffering from poor school districts. Rice received her biggest applause when her speech turned personal. Rice delivered this powerful personal anecdote. "On a personal note, a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham, the most segregated big city in America," Rice said, talking about her childhood in Alabama. "Her parents can't take her to a movie theater or a restaurant, but they make her believe that even though she can't have a hamburger at the Woolworth's lunch counter she can be President of the United States - and she becomes the Secretary of State."
Susana Martinez, Governor of New Mexico also gave a very well received speech. Martinez admitted that she and Romney do not see eye to eye on every issue (“self-deport? What the heck is that”, she said in Newsweek interview), but tonight she put those issues aside and threw her support behind Romney.
“In many ways Mitt Romney and I are very different. Different starts in life. Different paths to leadership. Different cultures,” Martinez said during her speech. “But we've each shared in the promise of America, and we share a core belief that the promise of America must be kept for the next generation. El sueño Americano es tener exito. It's success. Success is the American Dream.”
Martinez, who is expected to help reach out to the Latino community, got a big round of applause when she talked about guarding a church parking lot with a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum. Martinez used her family’s personal story to strike a chord with those offended by the president’s “you didn’t build that comment.” Martinez said, “My parents grew that small business-from one 18-year-old guarding a bingo-to more than 125 people in three states. And sure, there was help along the way. But my parents took the risk. They stood up. And you better believe that they built it.” Martinez followed that by attacking Obama’s performance. “If he can take credit for government building small businesses, then he can accept responsibility for breaking his promise and adding $5 trillion to the national debt. Because he did build that.”
Martinez told of her conversion from Democrat to Republican a story that surely will be repeated in Latino communities across America as the GOP revs up its recruitment efforts in the Latino community.
Like Rice, Martinez used the opportunity to share her message of hope and inspiration. “Growing up, I never imagined a girl from a border town could one day become a governor. But this is America. Y, en America todo es posible ... As the first Hispanic female governor in history, little girls often come up to me in the grocery store or the mall. They look and point, and when they get the courage, they ask 'Are you Susana?' and they run up and give me a hug. And I wonder. How do you know who I am? But they do. And these are little girls. It’s in moments like these when I'm reminded that we each pave a path. And for me, it's about paving a path for those little girls to follow."
A transcript of Rice’s speech can be found here.
The text of Martinez’ speech can be found here.