|McCain Considers Condi
Copyright April 7, 2008
ith Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Il.) locked in a bloody battle for the Democratic nomination, presumptive GOP nominee John McCain (R-Ariz.) kicks back and considers possible running mates. Since wrapping up the nomination March 4, McCain has the luxury of consolidating the conservative GOP base and reaching out to Reagan Democrats and independents that could prove pivotal in the Fall campaign. Turning attention to a running mate, McCain finds himself at a distinct advantage over Obama and Clinton. While they continue to beat each other up, the former Vietnam prisoner of war and four-term Arizona senator looks ahead to a possible match up with his Democratic challenger. Picking a VP for McCain will have far-reaching consequences, especially to conservative groups not convinced that McCain was the best choice.
Recent speculation centered on former Mass. Gov. and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Romney campaigned with McCain in Salt Lake City March 27, fueling speculation that the two bitter rivals might join forces. Romney's conservative credentials are questioned only by Christian evangelicals, unwilling to acknowledge the Mormon faith. While ending his bid Feb. 7, Romney gave McCain fits on the campaign trail, especially presidential debates where the two got downright nasty. Based on that history and objections from religious conservatives, Romney presents a long-shot pick for McCain. Also lurking in the shadows is conservative former preacher and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, whose campaign hung-on until Texas and Ohio put McCain over the top. While liked by evangelicals, Huckabee doesn't have the appeal to crossovers and independents.
McCain said April 2 he's actively seeking a running mate, though is nowhere close to a pick. Fueling speculation, he just completed a 7-day trip March 22 with Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman ((I-Con.) and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) to Iraq, Israel, Jordan, France and Great Britain, reinforcing his foreign policy credentials. “We just started this process of getting together a list of names and having them looked at,” said McCain, hoping to reach a decision by the Sept. 1-4 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Once Democrats settle on their nominee, McCain will want a running mate well before the convention. Names circulating but not necessarily in the running include, but no limited to, S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford, S.C. Sen. Jim DeMint, Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Huchison, former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm and more recently Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Rice has been emphatic, until recently, that she wanted to return to her old job at Stanford University or possibly pursue the private sector. She practically ruled out the VP until encouraged to run by Bush's conservative base. More recently, GOP strategist Dan Senor told ABC's “This Week” with George Stephanapolous April 6 that Rice sent out feelers to the McCain campaign. “Condi has been actively, actually in recent weeks, campaigning for this,” said Senor. Some see Rice as an attractive option for the older McCain, especially if Obama prevails with Democrats. Condi's pick could backfire, not because she lacks qualifications but precisely because she's one of the key architects together with Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld of the Iraq War. McCain has endorsed President George W. Bush's troop surge and strongly backs the war.
Condi represents a wild card for the GOP looking to confront Democrats' antiwar strategy. So far, McCain has not nuanced his message, hinting at a possible exit strategy should political reconciliation prove unrealistic. With Iraq Commander Gen. David Petraeus slated to give another progress report April 8 to the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain must show a willingness to disgruntled Republicans, crossovers and independents to potentially change course. While Rice has impeccable foreign policy credentials, she does very little to bring McCain Reagan Democrats or independents disgusted with the war. Rice and former Secretary of State Colin A. Powell staked their reputations on finding Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. When no WMD were found, Rice and Powell lost credibility, though both insisted WMD was only one reason to take down Saddam.
McCain's veep race promises to be a free-for-all, before the Democrats decide on a nominee. Picking VP this year carries more risks and promises, having to counter directly the team picked by Democrats. While attractive and qualified, Rice could upend McCain's chances by putting too much focus on Iraq. With the economy teetering on recession and the recession linked by Columbia University Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz to the war, Condi's pick could sabotage McCain's chances. McCain's best match might be one of his Mideast traveling buddies Lindsey Graham, who scored points with conservatives confronting liberals during former President Bill Clinton's pre-impeachment hearings. “She would make a good vice presidential candidate because she would be a good president,” said conservative tax crusader Grover Norquist March 27, throwing in his two cents.
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