Daniels-Rice 2012? Not a Smart Answer at This Stage In The Game

Bookmark and Share After his wife gave the keynote address at an Indiana Republican State Party fundraiser, Governor Daniels accepted an invitation for drinks with 55 members of the highly active Students for Daniels presidential draft effort. The casual sit down took place at a bar several blocks away from the Marriot location where the state G.O.P. dinner was held.

The get together featured one on one conversations with members of the group and the main topic of discussion prompted by the Governor consisted mainly of hearing about what the college students plans for their own futures were. But it was reported by the conservative outlet The Weekly Standard that one student asked the Governor who he would lean towards selecting as a Vice President. Stipulating that his answer was only hypothetical, he offered up the name of former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice as someone whom he wouldlike to pick.

While certainly not a declaration of who he would pick as his running mate if he were to run for and win the Republican presidential nomination, the choice affords us a positive glimpse of the Governors strategic political thinking and an indication of an instinct that does not bode well for his relationship with the conservative base of the Party that is needed to win the nomination.

On the political and strategic fronts, the most telling aspect about Daniels off the cuff favoritism of Condi Rice as a running mate, is a clear indication of Mitch Daniels continued close ties to the former political organization of President George W. Bush and that Mitch Daniels is concerned about his own lack of foreign affairs credentials. Apparently while Daniels is quite confident in his ability to win people over on matters of the budget and the economy, he is well aware of the need to establish an overall ability to cover all the bases if he became the Republican candidate for President. The addition of Condoleeza Rice to a Daniels candidacy would certainly go a long way in bringing the type of foreign affairs credentials that can compensate for any perceived lack experience that Daniels might have in that area.

But as much as a Rice vice presidency might help Daniels to cover all the bases in a general election for President, among Republicans, her selection would also become explosively divisive. On Rices supposed strong suit, foreign affairs and national security, many conservatives, particularly neo-conservatives, claim that as Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice opposed the surge in Iraq that ultimately turned our effort there around for the better. But at the same time, Rice was a proponent of the Clear, Hold, Build, Strategy in Iraq that Secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush opposed. In the end it was this strategy which proved to be the key to the successful use of those deployed in the surge

While neo-cons will have a mixed argument for and against Rice, social conservatives will be less divided in their opposition to her. For social-conservatives, Rice has gone on record with a position on abortion that they view as unacceptably pro-choice. While she holds her own personal opposition to abortion, she states that she is uncomfortable with the federal government being involved in the issue, however she does support parental consent and opposes the practice of late term abortions. Still, this will not satisfy the hardcore movement conservatives who already doubt Daniels commitment to traditional conservative positions on social issues.

This is something which if Daniels did become the presidential nominee, would erupt into very public disruptive divisions at the Republican national convention. And no matter how it was handled at the convention and in the days to follow, the selection of a pro-choice Vice President and the aggressive opposition to such a decision would dominate headlines and overwhelm the very economic issues that Mitch Daniels could win the election on, by relegating them to obscurity. Although the media frenzy that would ensue upon the creation of a such a deep division within the G.O.P. would eventually die down, it would still successfully halt any momentum coming out of the convention and ultimately, on Election Day, leave a small but significant number of conservatives staying at home and not voting, or voting for a third Party candidate.

At the same time, the selection of a pro-choice Vice President on the Republican ticket will not persuade any pro-choice Democrats or Independents to vote Republican.

Of course it is very possible that Condoleeza Rice could change her position and decide that the government should be involved in the issue of life. Mitt Romney did. That would not necessarily make Right-to-Life voters support Rice for Vice President, but it would do much to prevent them from opposing her having the number two spot on the ticket.

Either way, what is most important to understand here, is that Mitch Daniels made a big mistake by answering the question about who he would hypothetically like to pick as his running mate. The issue is one that is totally inappropriate as a topic of discussion for someone who has supposedly not yet made a decision about whether or not they will even be in a position to select a running mate. And in the case of Mitch Daniels specifically, after all the skepticism that his remark about having a truce on social issues produced among the conservative base of the G.O.P., to inject the controversy of a pro-choice running mate into the primary debate, was a horrible political misstep.

As a conservative who hopes that Mitch Daniels can prove himself in an open and honest debate and contest for our support, I know that Mitch Daniels is conservative both fiscally and socially. His record speaks much louder than any words do. The last people in the world that have been placated or pleased by the decisions Mitch Daniels made, are those of the likes of Planned Parenthood, NARAL, or big unions. On social issues, he has been one of the most reliable and productive leaders that conservatives have. But it is the perception created by a twisting of his words which makes any campaign by him for the support of the social conservatives, an uphill battle. In my estimation, Mitch Daniels can certainly overcome any steep hills, but he need not unnecessarily burden himself with baggage that will make his climb to the top of the mountain a longer and harder process. Affording the opportunity to let slip that a pro-choice running mate is your preferred choice for a running mate did not make things any easier and was totally unnecessary.

Not only do we not know how much serious consideration Daniels gave to his response to the question of who he would pick for Vice President, no one even knows if Condoleeza Rice would willingly allow herself to be considered for the position.

But now, it doesnt matter. Like it or not, this casual but private, hypothetical answer to a hypothetical question, will come up again, and again, and again. By answering the question, Daniels just injected Condoleeza Rice in to the 2012 presidential election, and he did so at a time, and in a way that wont help him much.

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2 Responses

  1. […] he is smarter than everyone else in the room, and he makes a point of letting them know it.  His offhand comment this week about making Condi Rice his running mate was premature and stupid.  It set off all the […]

  2. […] the name Condoleezza Rice came up as a potential running mate for conservative Mitch Daniels, he found himself on the receiving end of […]

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