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The Condoleezza Rice effect

at 12:15 PM ET, 07/19/2012

Condoleezza Rice isn’t likely to be Mitt Romney’s pick for vice president, but a new poll suggests that she would be a big help if she were.


Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice answers questions from reporters at Mississippi College in Clinton, Miss., on April 17. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP) (Rogelio V. Solis - AP)
The former secretary of state is the clear choice of Republican voters to be Romney’s vice president, according to a new Fox News poll that shows her garnering the support of 30 percent of them. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is second with 19 percent.

The more interesting number, though, is what Rice could do for Romney on the ballot.

While President Obama leads Romney overall 45 percent to 41 percent, adding Rice to Romney’s ticket shifts many of the remaining undecided voters to the Republican side, creating a 46 percent to 46 percent tie.

That shift, as it happens, is statistically significant. In other words, the poll shows that Rice would move votes into Romney’s column.

That’s in contrast to other GOP contenders, including Rubio, who most polls show don’t even move votes in their home states, much less nationally. A Marist College poll in March, for example, showed that adding Rubio to the GOP ticket would actually expand Obama’s lead from 2 percent to 5 percent. Adding former Florida governor Jeb Bush, meanwhile, turned the race into a tie ballgame (though that shift, unlike Rice’s, was not statistically significant).

In a lot of ways, Rice’s impact on the general election ballot makes sense. On paper, she is an exciting pick for the GOP as an African American woman who has never held elective office.

She was also pretty popular during her time as secretary of state, even though she presided over a very unpopular war and was personally close to a very unpopular president. A Washington Post-ABC News poll in February 2007 showed 58 percent of Americans approved of her, while just 31 percent disapproved.

She also brings the kind of moderate credentials to the table that could help Romney woo middle-of-the-road independents.

We still stand by our best guess, though, that Rice isn’t someone Romney would seriously consider for his vice presidential slot. Social conservatives would be incensed by his picking someone they see as pro-abortion rights and who may or may not have voted for Obama in 2008.

In addition, the poll may be over-selling her effect on the ballot, in large part because it was conducted during a time when she was all over the news thanks to a Drudge Report headline that had her leading Romney’s short list.

All that aside, the fact that Rice moves votes into Romney’s column shows what he has to gain by picking someone who is seen as serious, experienced, and has broad appeal. That’s part of the reason Jeb Bush moved votes in the Marist poll, even as a shiny-new-thing like Rubio didn’t.

 
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