Some social conservative leaders, alarmed that Mitt Romney may choose former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as his running mate, have contacted the Romney campaign to warn that doing so would be a political disaster.
Their primary concern: Although Rice opposes late-term abortion and favors parental consent, she has described herself as “mildly pro-choice.”
A broad range of Christian leaders contacted by Newsmax expressed admiration for Rice, but warned that a pro-choice running mate would seriously damage Romney’s standing with the GOP faithful whose avid support he will need in November.
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Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Newsmax: “I contacted my contacts within the campaign and said, ‘You can’t do this.’”
Land expressed strong admiration for Rice, and said he would be delighted to see her land a top job elsewhere in a Romney administration. But not as his vice president.
“The key here is this is the first nomination in a proposed Romney administration,” he explained, “and it cannot be someone who’s pro-choice, because that reactivates all the old doubts about whether pro-life is a preference, or a conviction, with the Romney administration.”
Choosing Rice for the No. 2 job, Land added, “would deactivate some pro-life activists and contributors into being mere voters, and some mere voters into being fishermen” — meaning they wouldn’t bother to vote at all.
Other Christian leaders have echoed those sentiments. On Friday, Fox News host and former GOP presidential contender Mike Huckabee, whose own name has been floated for the job, declared it would be “a disaster” if Romney were to name Rice his No. 2.
“They’d sit on their hands,” Huckabee said of his fellow social conservatives. “Absolutely they will.”
Rice’s prominence in the vice presidential discussion has been rising ever since she delivered a rousing speech at a Romney strategy conclave last month in Utah. The buzz culminated with a report Friday, attributed to anonymous sources, stating Rice had emerged as the top contender for the vice presidential nod.
Dr. Robert P. George, founder of the American Principles Project, told Newsmax he is highly skeptical that report is accurate. It was George who elicited Romney’s explicit pledge to nominate a pro-life running mate at the Palmetto Freedom Forum.
At that event, Romney first said he “would expect” his running mate would be pro-life and pro-traditional marriage. When George sought clarification, Romney said: “Yes … that person would share my views, yeah.”
“Initially he used the word ‘expectation,’" recalled George. “I pressed him on it, and he made the commitment.”
Since the Rice trial balloon went up, George told Newsmax, his phone has been ringing off the hook with social-conservative callers questioning whether Romney can be trusted to make pro-life appointments, including Supreme Court nominations.
George said he has been reassuring them that unless Rice is willing to renounce her pro-choice stance, “That’s not going to happen.”
He added: “When a man of integrity gives you his word, he keeps his word. Mitt Romney is a man of integrity.”
Gary L. Bauer, president of the pro-life, traditional-marriage American Values organization, demurred when asked if he has been in touch with the Romney campaign over the Rice issue. But he said he sent an e-mail on the topic to his members, and conducted an informal poll. By about a 3-to-1 margin, he said, his members oppose a Romney-Rice ticket.
Bauer noted that former Vice President George H.W. Bush adopted Ronald Reagan’s pro-life stance when he agreed to join that ticket. Theoretically, Rice could opt to do the same. But even if she did, Bauer voiced another concern: Whether the cerebral Rice would respond well under “the equivalent of a Chicago back-alley mugging” that many analysts expect to see from Team Obama.
“I think that requires a running mate that can give it as good as he or she takes it. You could say, to her credit, that is not her image,” Bauer said. “And it doesn’t appear to be a style that she particularly wants, or an undertaking that she would covet.
“… The effort to destroy her will be extraordinary by the left,” he predicted. “It is something the campaign needs to weigh, and she needs to consider, if the offer is made.”
Eagle Forum founder and conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly also commented on the Rice-as-veep story.
“She’s a very admirable woman,” Schlafly told Newsmax, “but I’m not picking the vice presidential nominee. …She’s certainly an admirable woman, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s the right person for vice president.”
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Asked if Rice’s nuanced pro-choice stance is a concern, Schlafly added: “I think that’s a worry. I think it’s important for Romney to reach out to the conservative grass-roots … they’re strongly pro-life. The polls are showing that the majority of Americans are pro-life now, and especially the younger ones.”
Adding Rice to the ticket could have an impact in key swing states as well. John Stemberger, president of the pro-family, pro-life Florida Family Policy Council, said Romney would be running an “enormous risk” of discouraging the base by appointing Rice.
“I love the idea of Condi Rice,” he said. “It’s just that when you get to the substance of Condi Rice, that’s where we have significant problems. …Romney does not need another establishment Republican. He needs a solid conservative to energize the base and to show the base that he means business about policy. And personnel is policy.”
He said naming her as the vice presidential running mate “absolutely” could hurt Romney’s chances of carrying Florida.
“If this is a serious consideration, then he’s being misadvised,” Stemberger said of Romney. “And the campaign is going to place itself at enormous risk in terms of energizing the base.”
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