Few predicted that the New York Giants blitz would unseat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Few predicted that presidential hopeful Ron Paul could raise nearly $35 million for his campaign. History has shown time and again that success can often come unexpectedly. Though it is not widely predicted, the Democratic Party will encounter a formidable challenge if John McCain selects Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as his vice presidential running mate. Rice may not be the first candidate for Vice President that comes to mind, but then again many winning strategies are not immediately apparent.
Although Rice does not fit the archetype of an American conservative, her views and policy are right-wing. She is respected in the Republican community and has a close relationship with President George W. Bush. She is religious enough to attract voters in the socially conservative Bible belt. However, unlike your typical Dick Cheney Republican, she appeals to typically Democratic demographics. Black women, who usually vote Democratic, may be inclined to give the Republican ticket a second look if they see someone on the ballot who personally understands their struggle as black women. Rice is intimately familiar with black issues. She was actually there in 1963 when the Ku Klux Klan bombed Birminghams sixteenth Street Baptist Church killing four young girls. In an interview with 60 Minutes Rice remembered, Well, we knew those little girls. Denise McNair was my little friend from kindergarten. And she was a playmate and I just couldn't believe that she was dead.
During the election season, the point of a vice presidential running mate is not to set policy, but to increase the presidential candidates appeal in a wider election. In this regard, Rice is particularly helpful to Republicans. Rice has strong foreign policy and national security experience, and has never had to place a single vote in the U.S. Senate that would have positioned her opposite the Republican establishment. Consequently, she will appeal to a different Republican demographic than John McCain will. McCain is widely known as a maverick whose votes have not always aligned with most Republicans. Although he has publicly denied it, McCain is heavily rumored to have considered leaving the Republican Party in 2001. In an interview with The Hill, former Senator of South Dakota Tom Daschle said there were intensive talks to bring him over to the Democrats. This history will not incentivize disenchanted Republican voters to turn out in the 2008 presidential election. Rice, on the other hand, is a Republican through and through. In her tenure as Secretary of State she has become particularly well-versed on diplomacy in the Middle-East, the Iraq War, and homeland security. This may bring McCains disenchanted Republican voters back to their local poll stations.
Rice will also undermine the Democratic Partys monopoly on the message of change. The party who will nominate either a black man or a white woman will suddenly have to run against a party with a black woman on the ballot. This gives the Republicans legitimate claim to the concept of change.
If Rice were on the Republican ticket, this would allow the Republican political machine to be more robust then previously allowed. The Republicans could use arguments like Is America ready for? without being called racist or sexist. They could critique Rev. Wright more strongly and scrutinize Hillary Clintons reaction to her husbands relationship with Monica Lewinski. The Democrats response that these Republican-driven criticisms are steeped in racism and misogyny will fall short, because the Republican Party will have a black person and a womanall in oneon the ballot. In this way, Rice will be a grandfoil for the Republicans.
More than just a convenient foil for Republicans, Rice is extremely smart and cunning. She will not say something to the press that will get McCain in trouble. She will probably win her debates by means of her cold intellect. The Democrats may not be able to find a vice presidential candidate who can match Rice in her time-tested conservative foreign policy expertise. With her deep public policy background as a National Security Advisor to President Bush and then Secretary of State, Rice has the credentials to lead the country at anytime should the need arise.
Finally, Rice will give Republicans something to get excited about. Since when have Republicans had a young and energizing candidate? Her novelty will engender Obama-esque press. Because Rice is not the obvious choice for vice president, many will be captivated. In this modern age where the media and the photo-op are pivotal, Rice will keep the Republican Party on the airwaves.
According to Republican insider Tom Senor, Condi Rice has been actively, actually in recent weeks, campaigning [to be McCains running mate]. While McCain was on the camping trail, The New York Times asked him about this. He claimed that thus far he has missed those signals for a McCain/Rice 08 ticket. But a few minutes later he added, I think shes a great American, I think theres very little that I can say that isnt anything but the utmost praise for a great American citizen, who served as a role model to so many millions of people in this country and around the world, Mr. McCain added that her overall record is very, very meritorious. We can expect to see Rice given substantial consideration for the Vice Presidential spot in the McCain Campaign. It would be a highly unexpected and highly effective move.