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Where there's more Republican VP smoke, there's more Condi Rice

April 8, 2008 |  2:35 pm

Now that everybody is dismissing it, we know there's really something up for sure about Condoleezza Rice possibly becoming a vice presidential candidate with An influential Washington conservative and head of Americans for Tax Reform Grover Norquist advances the idea of Secretary of State Condoleeza Condi Rice of California as a possible vice presidential candidate on the 2008 Republican ticket with Arizona Senator John McCainthe presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain.

Obviously, the choice is his. He's stubborn enough not to be pushed.

And he's said publicly that his campaign team has just begun to assemble a long list of possibilities. (You don't want any party VP wannabes thinking they were overlooked, even if ultimately not chosen.)

The Arizona senator wants the No. 2 choice to be well-prepared when the announcement time comes, unlike, say, a certain former senator from Indiana whose name is the same as those helpless little birds that all the current vice presidents like to blast with large guns.

The speculation about Rice began two weeks ago, chronicled in detail on The Ticket, when within days in between foreign trips she complimented Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on his race speech, spent a long time with the editorial board of the conservative Washington Times and published the transcript of the session on the State Department website.

Then she spoke at the regular Wednesday conservative brainstorming session presided over by the bearded and ubiquitous Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform.

Because it is THE place for conservatives to present themselves and programs before a wide array of important....

conservative institutions in the nation's capital, potential candidates are drawn there. Cabinet secretaries in GOP administrations ensure their deputies are ready to brief that influential crowd any week.

But for a secretary herself to attend and speak seemingly off-the-cuff, not about becoming vice president (she never even mentioned it, which made her presence and presentation all the more powerful), but about her life and upbringing in Birmingham and Denver, her values, programs, policies and views. She has described herself, for instance, as "mildly pro-choice."

Attendees, who are not supposed to talk about the off-the-record sessions, said off-the-record that virtually everyone went away saying to themselves, "She could be president." Which is a helpful qualification for a possible vice president who would turn 54 10 days after the The name of Secretary of State Condoleeza Condi Rice crops up as an excellent fit as vice presidential candidate on the Republican November ticket with Arizona Senator John McCainNovember election, when the head of the ticket would be 72 on inauguration day.

Norquist himself enthusiastically endorsed Rice's non-existent candidacy in a lengthy interview with the Washington Post's blog The Sleuth today.

"If her goal was to convince everyone she would be a good president and, therefore, a good vice president," Norquist told Mary Ann Akers, "she hit it out of the ballpark."

For years since she helped design the policies of the nascent Bush campaign in 1999, Rice, who was trained as a concert pianist, has maintained that her ideal job would be commissioner of the National Football League, a job that is not currently vacant.

More recently, Rice has said that at the end of her current government job next January, she looks forward to leaving the city to "new blood," returning to the West (she remains a tenured Stanford faculty member on leave) and reading, writing and voting as an ordinary citizen. And no doubt regaining some lucrative posts on corporate boards.

She also told Akers that McCain is "an extraordinary American, a really outstanding leader."

McCain has said he's detected no signals from Rice. Her State Department spokesman Monday sought to dampen the political rumors. And on the same day as Akers' post, another Washington Post blog, the Trail, recited her disinterest in the VP job. But, you'll notice, no one is saying "never" or "out of the question."

All of which, in the absence of any other Republican political news except McCain's lame fundraising numbers, naturally fuels the speculation.

If you were designing an ideal Republican vice presidential running mate in the Chinese Year of the Democrat, when that party will have either a black or a woman candidate at the top of the ticket, a black woman who's from the state with the most electoral votes and has already established her conservative credentials with the D.C. Republican groups that count and donate (and remain suspicious of McCain) could fit right in.

Think someone like that, despite her connection to an unpopular White House incumbent, could help re-energize the dispirited base of the party of Lincoln? That is, after all, McCain's Job One.

But, as they say, there's probably nothing to it. She'll likely go back to Palo Alto and disappear.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Photo credit: State Department

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