Would Romney, Already Looked At Skeptically By The Right, Pick Rice?

Condoleezza Rice, shown here visiting a school in Moscow in 2011, is the latest rumored choice for Mitt Romney's running mate.

Condoleezza Rice, shown here visiting a school in Moscow in 2011, is the latest rumored choice for Mitt Romney's running mate. Korotayev Artyom/ITAR-TASS/Landov hide caption

itoggle caption Korotayev Artyom/ITAR-TASS/Landov

Pretty soon we'll be obsessing full time over Mitt Romney's running mate selection, but until then I thought I'd weigh in one on Veepstakes story that's been making the rounds in recent days.

I'm talking about the rumors, first appearing Thursday in the Drudge Report, that former Bush Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has surged to the top of Romney's wish list. The supposed book on Rice: she cuts into President Obama's African-American and female vote, and has foreign policy smarts. Sarah Palin, who knows a thing or three about the importance of the vetting process, chimed in, saying Rice would make a "wonderful" vice president. And what about the fact that Rice supports abortion rights? Palin said that we "need to remember" that "it's not the vice president that would legislate abortion, and that would be Congress's role. And we'll keep that in mind." Somehow I don't remember hearing that argument when Tom Ridge's name was being discussed as vice-presidential material.

In any event, one would assume a Rice for Veep pick is not palatable for many conservatives, and that certainly includes Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, who offered this statement:

"Former Secretary Rice's position on the sanctity of human life makes her an unqualified candidate for Governor Romney to choose as a running mate. Throughout the campaign, including at the Palmetto Freedom Forum last September, he has pledged to us in no uncertain terms that he would choose a pro-life running mate. We have taken Governor Romney at his word and therefore believe Secretary Rice will be ruled out of consideration. Secretary Rice's position violates criteria that Governor Romney himself has laid out."

Ben Jacobs, writing in The Daily Beast, explains why choosing Rice would be problematic:

"Ever since starting his first presidential campaign in 2006, the former Massachusetts governor has faced a higher level of scrutiny from conservatives for his record on social issues. Romney, who ran for the U.S. Senate in 1994 as a pro-choice candidate who would be 'better than Ted [Kennedy] on gay rights,' has had to backtrack considerably since. He has vowed to be 'severely conservative' and spent his presidential primary combating attacks that he was simply 'a Massachusetts moderate.' The result has left Romney uniquely vulnerable to criticism from the Republican base."

I agree. Compared to every Republican presidential nominee you can think of in recent decades, no one is looked at with more suspicion from conservatives than Romney. (And that includes John McCain, Palin's benefactor, who broke with the GOP on many issues, such as the Bush tax cuts, immigration and campaign finance legislation.) Given Romney's problems with the base, choosing a running mate who supports abortion rights would be an invitation for a right-wing revolt.

Lost in all this has been Rice's repeated assertions that she has no interest in being vice president or becoming a candidate of any kind. And for all we know, the Rice trial balloon may have been one person's way of trying to change the subject from Bain Capital.

Regardless, it's not going to be Condoleezza Rice.

(But if lo and behold it turned out that she was the pick, that would be great news for Demas Jasper of Salt Lake City, Utah. Demas was the first person to predict Rice in my "Guess The VP" contest from last April.)

There is another blockbuster I'd like to share with you. Five times, between last Thursday night and Friday morning, I received the same e-mail from Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades giving me a tremendous hint about when the VP choice will be made. When you send something five times, you know it has to be significant. And it was:

"We're getting ready to share some exciting news. Sometime between now and the Republican convention, Mitt will be announcing his choice for VP."

This is pretty remarkable, given the fact that I always expected Romney to announce his choice in October. Well, you heard it here first. Still, it's not as remarkable as this e-mail, which comes from Jennifer Petty, the executive director of 21st Century Democrats:

"Soon Mitt Romney will make his choice for vice president, and we're curious who you think he will pick. ...

It's such an important choice, and it can also blow up in your face if you pick wrong. Look what happened to George Bush when he added Dan Quayle to the ticket.

But in the last election, John McCain's campaign regained momentum with his choice of Sarah Palin, which energized the right wing of the Republican Party."

I kind of sat there for a bit after reading this. Is Jennifer saying that the Quayle pick in 1988 was bad and the Palin pick was good?

Anyway, good or bad, here's another look at my tortured record at predicting vice-presidential running mates. I've been living off my Thomas Eagleton (1972) and Dan Quayle (1988) picks for years now, ignoring of course the fact that I've been wrong just about every other time:

1972

Dem Prediction: Tom Eagleton

Dem Actual: Eagleton

1976

GOP Prediction: Howard Baker

GOP Actual: Bob Dole

Dem Prediction: John Glenn

Dem Actual: Walter Mondale

1980

GOP Prediction: Richard Lugar

GOP Actual: George H.W. Bush

1984

Dem Prediction: Michael Dukakis

Dem Actual: Geraldine Ferraro

1988

GOP Prediction: Dan Quayle

GOP Actual: Quayle

Dem Prediction: John Glenn

Dem Actual: Lloyd Bentsen

1992

Dem Prediction: Jay Rockefeller

Dem Actual: Al Gore

1996

GOP Prediction: John McCain

GOP Actual: Jack Kemp

2000

GOP Prediction: Jim Gilmore

GOP Actual: Dick Cheney

Dem Prediction: Dick Durbin

Dem Actual: Joe Lieberman

2004

Dem Prediction: John Edwards

Dem Actual: Edwards

2008

GOP Prediction: Tim Pawlenty

GOP Actual: Sarah Palin

Dem Prediction: Jack Reed

Dem Actual: Joe Biden

2012

GOP Prediction: Rob Portman

GOP Actual: ?

And speaking of Tom Eagleton, last week was the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Democratic convention, which nominated George McGovern (July 12), who then named Eagleton as his running mate (July 13) — one of the more disastrous choices in convention history. (Check out a new book on the subject, "The Eighteen-Day Running Mate: McGovern, Eagleton, and a Campaign In Crisis," by Joshua Glasser (Yale University Press). It's a good read.)

In September of 2010, I had the privilege of coming to St. Louis, courtesy of member station KWMU/St. Louis Public Radio, for a fundraiser, speech and schmoozing. One of the events took place at the home of Barbara Eagleton, Tom's widow. Barbara is not only a tremendous supporter of public radio, but she is also an absolutely delightful person. She opened her home to me and showed me some great items from Tom's political career, including scores of photos from a who's-who in Democratic politics. At one point I asked her about those calamitous days of 1972. She said it was almost surreal, likening it to the center of a tornado — a strange calmness enveloped them, she said, while all chaos broke loose outside of it. That day with Barbara Eagleton was one of the highlights of my career with NPR and I'll never forget it.

jill will
Ken Rudin collection

Greenstein. The Green Party, at its national convention on Saturday in Baltimore, named Dr. Jill Stein as its presidential nominee. Stein, an internist from Lexington, Mass., easily defeated comedienne Roseanne Barr and several others for the nomination. The Green nominee for governor against Mitt Romney in 2002 (she received three percent of the vote) and again in 2010, Stein dismisses concern that her candidacy could hurt the Democrats in November, as many accuse the Greens and nominee Ralph Nader doing in 2000 (see last week's Political Junkie column), saying, "You don't get democracy by silencing the voice of the public interest."

The party is hoping to appear on at least 40 state ballots in the fall, but as of now the number is 22.

Political Updates. I post periodic political updates during the week on Twitter. You can follow me at @kenrudin. Here's some stuff that appeared in my e-mail in box:

But first, let me talk a little about this disagreement I had with one of the callers during last week's Political Junkie segment on Talk of the Nation.

In our political potpourri segment, host Neal Conan played a clip from Paul LePage, the Republican governor of Maine, who said this in his weekly radio address in denouncing Obamacare:

"We the people have been told there is no choice: You must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo, the IRS."

There has been a disturbing increase of people, in trying to make a political point, who compare their foes to Hitler, Nazis, the Gestapo, etc. It is, in my opinion, shameful and despicable. Disagree all you want, but comparing opponents to what went on in Germany in the 1930s is crossing a line that should not be crossed. However, I expressed myself this way on the show:

"We've heard this kind of rhetoric from both sides, going back for several years now, and it's just getting out of hand, between George W. Bush being a Nazi, Barack Obama being a Nazi. ... The Holocaust and what happened back then was pretty horrific, and to describe arms of the government as being Gestapo-related or Nazi-related or fascist-related or communist-related, you are inciting people, and it's just a very dangerous bit of rhetoric that just doesn't seem to stop."

But it was my "we've heard this kind of rhetoric from both sides" that prompted Jim to call in from Iowa City, who complained I

"... just brushed it off as name-calling on both sides and created some sort of equivalency, and there really is no equivalency. The vitriol and name-calling from the right is much, much more extreme. This doesn't come from Democrats and the opposition to the extreme right anywhere near as much. The Republicans are serial abusers in this regard."

My argument was not about which party does it more; I was just saying that whoever does it is despicable. But I did say that both sides have done it — I recall posters depicting President Bush with a Hitler mustache and Swastika armband. Harry Belafonte — an entertainer, true, and not the governor of a state — famously compared the Homeland Security Department to the Gestapo in 2006. There were other such instances.

Do I think it's gotten worse since Jan. 20, 2009? I do, certainly. And maybe I did come off as more dismissive than I should have. But my point was not to list the number of times Democrats said it and compare it to the number of times Republicans said it. Anyway, two e-mails from two different perspectives came in to the mailbox:

Eileen Shore, Minneapolis, Minn.: "You were correctly challenged about this false equivalency by one of the callers, and I just want to reinforce what he said. You seemed to dismiss his comment, and you should not. As long as the radical conservatives get a bye from you and others, and are not held to account, they will continue. You are encouraging them and it needs to stop. At some point bland 'they all do it' non-analysis becomes an primary reason this kind of deadly discourse continues. Please reflect deeply about this. ... By all means, hold Democrats to account when they blow it; but don't just vaguely suggest that they all do it in order to avoid the ire of the crazy conservatives."

Teresa Dickinson, Napa, Calif.: "I'm an independent and thus try to watch both sides, and I'm glad Ken Rudin pointed out that both sides do this. I've noticed that liberals or Democrats can be just as raunchy in regards to what any Republican will say. Good for Ken Rudin for reporting objectively. Thank you. I will keep listening to NPR."

And here are some non-Gestapo related e-mails:

Q: Regarding your column about the effect of Ralph Nader's votes on Al Gore in Florida, don't forget, Nader hurt Gore more in New Hampshire. Had Gore won that state, of course, there is no Florida to focus on. — Scott MacKay, Rhode Island Public Radio, Providence, R.I.

A: That is correct. George W. Bush beat Gore by 7,211 votes in New Hampshire, a state where Nader received more than 22,000 votes.

Of course, you can also try and calculate what effect Pat Buchanan, running as the Reform Party nominee, had on the race. Gore won Iowa by 4,144 votes; Buchanan got 5,731 votes in the state. Did Bush lose Iowa because of Buchanan? There are more examples. Gore's margin was just 366 in New Mexico, where Buchanan took 1,392 votes. Gore also won Oregon (by 6,765 votes) and Wisconsin (by 5,708) by a smaller amount than what Buchanan received. Perhaps, if Gore had won the election, Republicans would have blamed Buchanan for Bush's defeat.

Q: Your Pete McCloskey button [see "This Day In Campaign History," Political Junkie, July 9, 2012] took me back. My first presidential campaign (at age 20) was for George McGovern in New Mexico in 1972, where I ran Dona Ana County for him (as a volunteer—ah, the good old days...). But the reason I mention it is that McCloskey won his only delegate from New Mexico Republicans, winning just enough votes to qualify for the one. The Nixon-controlled GOP, however, would not let an actual McCloskey delegate go in that slot—so a supporter of Nixon went instead. — Steve Cobble, Washington, D.C.

A: McCloskey, who had already dropped out of race, received six percent of the vote in the 1972 New Mexico primary, enough for a delegate. McCloskey hoped that delegate would give a nominating speech for him at the convention but, as you said, Republican officials wouldn't let that happen.

Let the record also show that Keith Judd, a convicted felon currently incarcerated in Texas, won 41 percent of the vote against President Obama in the West Virginia primary this year. And John Wolfe, a Tennessee attorney, took 40 percent against Obama in Arkansas. But neither Judd nor Wolfe will have any delegates in Charlotte.

Q: I love the "Ken Rudin for President button" in this week's ScuttleButton contest. I'd vote for him, but he would probably establish Rudin-care, which would require everyone to laugh at his jokes or pay a tax. I mean, a penalty. Or maybe it is a tax. I'll get back to you. — Ray Betzner, Philadelphia, Pa.

A: Lots of people wanted to know the story behind this button. In October 2010, I gave a speech in Tallahassee, Fla., before the Tiger Bay Club, the great non-partisan political forum. John Clark, an officer of the club, had a slew of buttons appear on every table — including this one. Click here for an image of some of the buttons.

Political Junkie segment on Talk of the Nation. Each Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET, the Political Junkie segment appears on Talk of the Nation (NPR's call-in program), hosted by Neal Conan with me adding color commentary, where you can, sometimes, hear interesting conversation, useless trivia questions and sparkling jokes. Click here to listen to last week's segment.

July 11 Junkie segment on TOTN

Podcast. There's also a new episode of our weekly podcast, "It's All Politics," up every Thursday. It's hosted by my partner in crime, Ron Elving, and me. With Ron on vacation, the latest episode was co-hosted by NPR's Brian Naylor, making his maiden podcast appearance.

last week's podcast

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last week's podcast

And Don't Forget ScuttleButton. ScuttleButton, America's favorite waste-of-time button puzzle, can usually be found in this spot every Monday or Tuesday. A randomly selected winner will be announced every Wednesday during the Political Junkie segment on NPR's Talk of the Nation. You still have time to submit your answer to last week's contest, which you can see here. Not only is there incredible joy in deciphering the answer, but the winner gets a TOTN T-shirt!

Last week's winner: Karen Mitnick of Haworth, N.J.

ON THE CALENDAR:

July 31 — Georgia primary. Texas runoff primary.

Aug. 2 — Tennessee primary.

Aug. 7 — Primaries in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington.

Aug. 11 — Hawaii primary.

Aug. 14 — Primaries in Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Aug. 21 — Wyoming primary.

Aug. 27-30 — Republican National Convention, Tampa, Fla.

Aug. 28 — Primaries in Alaska, Arizona and Vermont.

Mailing list. To receive a weekly email alert about the new column and ScuttleButton puzzle, contact me at politicaljunkie@npr.org.

******* Don't Forget: If you are sending in a question to be used in this column, please include your city and state. *********

This day in political history: Alexander Butterfield, the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and a former White House aide, tells the Senate select Watergate committee that all of President Nixon's conversations held in the White House and Executive Office Building have been recorded and saved, beginning in the spring of 1971.

nixon bugs me
Ken Rudin collection

Butterfield's bombshell comes in a response to a question by Minority Counsel Fred Thompson. The existence of the tapes could well answer the question raised in earlier testimony by former White House Counsel John Dean as to whether or not President Nixon was aware of the efforts to coverup the Watergate scandal (July 16, 1973).

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: politicaljunkie@npr.org

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