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Romney–Rice 2012?

Former U.S. President George W. Bush kisses Former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice
Photos like these would be an issue. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A new CNN survey of GOP voter preferences for Mitt Romney’s future running mate reaches a surprising conclusion. With 26 percent of the vote, Condoleezza Rice leads all other contenders, including guys like Rick Santorum, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, and Paul Ryan.

Rice hasn’t been considered a very plausible contender in the Mitt Romney veepstakes so far, and perhaps with good reason. Rice was a central figure in the Bush administration, particularly in terms of homeland security and foreign policy, which are most prominently defined by the worst terrorist attack in American history and a widely unpopular war, respectively. And if the Obama campaign decides to portray a potential Romney presidency as a retread of the Bush years, putting one of Bush’s closest advisers on the ticket would be a big help. Rice has also repeatedly, and as recently as yesterday, denied interest in joining Romney’s ticket, although that’s something everyone says, whether it’s true or not.

Bush taint aside, though, Rice seems to be exactly what Romney needs. She’s a woman, and, as has been well-documented, women voters aren’t very fond of Romney, even after Hillary Rosen said that mean thing about his wife. (She’s also black, although we doubt her inclusion on the ticket would shift the black vote away from Obama in any substantial way.) She’s obviously qualified and knowledgeable, so Romney won’t have to worry about another Sarah Palin situation. Romney could also use some help firing up his own Republican base, and as the CNN poll shows, they’re big fans of Rice, ill-conceived wars notwithstanding. Also, and perhaps most importantly: Alliteration.

We still think Romney will ultimately decide that the Bush taint (and we do apologize for saying that over and over) outweighs the potential benefits of having Rice on the ticket. But we wouldn’t be completely shocked if he doesn’t.