The two stories that have dominated most political headlines this week relate to Mitt Romney’s awkward flirtations with black voters. The presumptive Republican nominee went from speaking, and getting booed by the crowd, at the NAACP’s annual convention in Houston to floating the idea of selecting former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a running mate in just seven days time.
A voting block that seems unlikely to turn their backs on the nation’s first African-American president, polling shows Romney winning only 6% of the black vote. The Republican’s appearance at the NAACP event even had some on the left suggesting it was nothing more than a cynical ploy aimed not at winning African-American support, but rather at stirring up ugly racist emotions among Romney’s Southern, and predominantly white, base.
President Obama’s large majority of support among black voters is not a luxury, but rather a necessary element of a somewhat uneasy coalition of minorities, female voters, government employees and union members. Without big wins among these groups, Democrats could be in trouble come November. And that’s exactly what makes the prospect of Condoleezza Rice as Mitt Romney’s running mate so interesting. Rice was a huge hit at a Romney fundraising event a few months ago, and when conservative blogger Matt Drudge leaked the story (likely with the Romney camp’s permission), the rumor seemed to take off like wildfire.
Juan Williams of Fox News was particularly excited by the prospect of using Rice as a way for the GOP to reach out to some of those very demographics where it has struggled greatly in the past.
“Yes, she would be the first African-American woman to be on a major party’s presidential ticket, at a time when the GOP is losing ground with minority, female voters and single women,” Williams wrote. “So let the Condimania begin!”
Williams also noted that Romney could stand to add someone with some foreign policy bona fides to the ticket. Rice would certainly fit that bill.
“Her expertise on foreign policy, as a former secretary of state, would compensate for Romney’s lack of international experience. As a governor and a businessman, Romney dealt almost exclusively with domestic policy,” he notes. “The downside of selecting Rice, is the likely conservative backlash to her refusal to ban a woman’s right to an abortion.”
Adding a pro-choice running mate might cost Romney votes to someone like the Constitution Party’s nominee, Virgil Goode — a former Congressman from Virginia. It’s not hard to imagine a backlash on the far right from evangelical Christians who are already a little uneasy with having a Mormon as their party’s standard bearer. The Romney campaign’s task will be to determine if the risk outweighs the reward, in which case a more conventional running mate like Rob Portman will likely be tapped. Either way, with the candidate heading overseas for a couple of weeks it seems likely we’ll see the Romney camp roll out a running mate announcement sooner rather than later.