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Posted at 01:16 PM ET, 07/13/2012

Condoleezza Rice: Let the abortion backlash begin


Former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice at the State Department in March 2008. (Mandel Ngan - AFP/Getty Images)

The rumors about Condoleezza Rice as Mitt Romney’s possible vice presidential pick are in overdrive.

A brilliant, black woman from the South with a solid record as secretary of state who has worked in two presidential administrations – what’s not to like? Well, there is one thing, if you’re a die-hard conservative: Rice’s pro-choice stance.

In a 2008 interview, Rice said: “I myself am someone who believes strongly in parental notification. … I’m against late-term abortion, which is, I think, really very cruel.”

She slyly defended Roe v. Wade in that interview, saying: “I have not wanted to see the law changed because it’s an area that I worry about the government being involved in.”

The conservative backlash against Rice as a “mildly pro-choice” candidate on a Romney ticket would be massive. It doesn’t matter that she received two standing ovations recently at Romney’s Utah political retreat.

In fact, the recoil has already begun.

On Friday, Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a news release:  “Former Secretary Rice’s position on the sanctity of human life makes her an unqualified candidate for Governor Romney to choose as a running mate. Throughout the campaign, including at the Palmetto Freedom Forum last September, he has pledged to us in no uncertain terms that he would choose a pro-life running mate. We have taken Governor Romney at his word and therefore believe Secretary Rice will be ruled out of consideration. Secretary Rice’s position violates criteria that Governor Romney himself has laid out.”

The release goes on to display a video of Romney at the Palmetto Freedom Forum in September 2011, where he promised to pick a pro-life vice president.

Imagine what the fallout would be if Romney, who has already faced scrutiny for his flip-flop views on abortion, actually picked Rice.

Sure, Sarah Palin said that Rice would be “wonderful” in an interview last night on Fox News. But Palin also said that she would “prefer a presidential and vice presidential candidate who had that respect for all innocent, precious, purposeful human life and showed that respect via being a pro-life candidate.”

She added, “We need to remember, though, that it’s not the vice president that would legislate abortion, and that would be Congress’s role. And we’ll keep that in mind.”

But the vice president is the tie-breaker in the Senate. What happens if a choice issue depends on a vote from Vice President Rice?

Rice’s name has circulated all year as a veep choice.

An April CNN/ORC International poll showed Rice leading the veep field with 26 percent of Republican voters. In response to that poll, Rice, after an April speech at Harding University in Searcy, Ark., said very clearly that the campaign trail is not for her.

Rice’s name is a good one for Romney’s damage control team to toss around, especially this week.  Romney had far from a stellar appearance at this week’s NAACP convention in Houston. In fact, he got booed. On the heels of that, the Rice whispers became screams, with the Drudge Report leading the charge.

This has all the makings of a classic, time-worn political ploy.  The candidate openly flirts with several supposed veep contenders, each of whom fits a demographic that the candidate needs to woo.  Midwesterners? Hispanics?  Southerners?  And now, in a week when Romney’s in trouble with the NAACP, the Condi rumors resurface.  

It’s too cute by half, though.

Floating Condi has now roused the pro-life wing to action.  Instead of Romney getting plusses for considering a black woman, the story could soon turn to how conservatives are beating up on a black woman. That’s not the best way to do damage control after being booed at the NAACP convention. 

Rice is too smart to play this political game. A loyal Republican, she has said that she will help the GOP ticket with fundraising. But she says that’s as far as she goes.

After all, Rice is a cool, calm woman who has tackled conniving, evil international dictators. She chooses her words carefully. In 2008, she knew her remarks would never pass GOP muster during a vice presidential vetting process. In that way, she has solidly guaranteed that she will never be asked to be on a Republican ticket – not as long as abortion is a central issue.

Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker.

By  |  01:16 PM ET, 07/13/2012

Tags:  Condoleezza Rice, Mitt Romney, abortion, Susan B. Anthony List, Sarah Palin, NAACP

 
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