(CBS News) Sarah Palin on Thursday night said she thinks Condoleezza Rice - the new "it girl" in Mitt Romney's veepstakes rumor mill - would make a "wonderful vice president," but said she'd be more comfortable with a nominee "who had that respect for all innocent, precious, purposeful human life, and showed that respect being a pro-life candidate."
Rice has previously classified her position on abortion as being "moderately pro-choice," something Palin suggested during the Fox News appearance might be a liability for a GOP ticket already boasting historically moderate Romney. But the 2008 vice presidential nominee largely gave her blessing to the possibility of a Rice pick anyway, reasoning, "it's not the vice president that would legislate abortion, and that would be Congress' role. And we'll keep that in mind."
Asked by CBS News' Charlie Rose in late June how she would respond should Romney offer her the job, Rice said unequivocally, "Not gonna happen - and no." Still, after the Drudge Report placed her atop Romney's short list Thursday night, citing her strong showing at the former Massachusetts governor's Utah retreat several weeks ago, her "no" hasn't stopped talking heads from weighing in on what the former secretary of state could bring to Romney's campaign.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, used the opportunity to remind voters - and Romney himself - that during September's Palmetto Freedom Forum, he vowed to select a running mate opposed to abortion rights. Rice's "position on the sanctity of human life makes her an unqualified candidate for Governor Romney to choose," Dannenfelser said Friday in a statement.
But Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, in the wake of Drudge's story, recalled a burst of "spontaneous applause" when Rice's name recently came up in VP conversation among businesspeople. "I should add here the look on the faces of the people who were applauding," Noonan wrote. "They looked surprised by their own passion. Actually they looked relieved, like a campaign was going on and big things might happen and maybe it could get kind of... exciting."
(Rice talks about vice presidency with CBS News chief White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell.)
Noonan laid out Rice's credentials warranting such a reaction: "A public figure of obvious and nameable accomplishment whose attainments can't be taken away from her. Washington experience... An academic, but not ethereal or abstract. A woman in a year when Republicans aren't supposed to choose a woman because of what is now called the 2008 experience - so the choice would have a certain boldness. A black woman in a campaign that always threatens to take on a painful racial overlay. A foreign-policy professional..."
Conservative blogger Erick Erickson had a different take, writing about the Rice speculation on RedState.com, "I don't know who is hitting the crack rock tonight in the rumor mill, but bull shiitake mushrooms." Among other things, Erickson counted Rice's "pro-abortion" stance and history with the George W. Bush administration as burden enough to take her out of the VP running.
(Rice tells O'Donnell, "politics doesn't appeal to me.")
The Bush factor, CBS News political director John Dickerson said Friday on "CBS This Morning," could open an unwelcome can of worms for the Romney campaign, as the nominee "hasn't really had to talk about the Bush years very much," he said. "He's been able to detach himself from this, particularly the foreign policy side."
"If [Rice] were on the ticket," Dickerson continued, Romney "would have to talk about eight years of Iraq, Afghanistan. Was it a mistake? Would you have gone in knowing what you know now? There are a lot of issues that come up."
Meanwhile, though, Romney's wife Ann hasn't done anything to deter speculation about the possibility of her husband choosing Rice - or any other woman - as his running mate. In an interview with CBS News' Jan Crawford last week, Ann Romneythe possibility of choosing a woman as the ticket's vice presidential nominee. "And I'd love that option," she said.