(Photo: REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett)
The Internet was abuzz on Friday over the news that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is at the top of Mitt Romney's short list for vice president. While some in the GOP were elated about the news, several leading evangelicals say they are "insulted" over the idea for one main reason – Rice supports abortion rights for women and Romney has stated publicly he would appoint a pro-life running mate.
"Condoleezza Rice is no movement conservative," wrote Richard Viguerie, a direct mail guru and outspoken conservative leader.
"Given her association with some of the worst neo-con inspired policies of the Bush era, putting Condoleezza Rice at the top of the VP short list is an insult to the conservatives, Tea Partiers, and independents that are looking for a break with the old establishment Republican Washington that Rice represents."
On Thursday, the Drudge Report broke the news that Rice – who had not been mentioned as a serious contender for the VP slot – was now being strongly considered by the Romney campaign. Plus, Ann Romney, the wife the future GOP nominee said last week that her husband was possibly looking for a woman for the coveted number two spot.
There is no doubt that Rice's foreign policy experience would be a real plus for a former governor who has not dealt with the dicey issues that confront America on a daily basis. Although she has never sought or held elected office, Rice's allure as a black female whose work ethic and determination took her from humble beginnings on an Alabama farm to the inner sanctums of world leaders would no doubt be an impressive story.
It is still unclear to most political observers just how seriously Romney is mulling over the decision to ask Rice to officially join his team. However, conservative columnist Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard is a Rice fan who finds the hubbub over the Stanford professor "amusing."
"I think Romney is considering it more seriously than most observers think," he told Politico.
But foreign policy experience and Washington credentials aside, social conservatives maintain that Romney's choice of Rice would deflate their base who are insistent that a strong pro-lifer be standing at Romney's side when the Republican convention closes in August.
Some conservatives point to Romney's responses at the Palmetto Freedom Forum in September 2011 when moderator Robbie George repeatedly questioned Romney about choosing a pro-life running mate.
George, who is a Princeton law professor and conservative Catholic, joined Republicans Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Congressman Steve King (Iowa) as those selected to give GOP candidates a chance to showcase their conservative credentials and below is a portion of their conversation.
Robbie George, Moderator: Governor Romney, will the person you choose as your vice presidential running mate be someone who shares your pro-life and pro-marriage convictions?
Gov. Romney: I certainly imagine so, I haven't made any selections in that regard … [as I look around at the people I would consider] I would expect that they would all be pro-life and pro-traditional marriage … but this is an important enough issue that the person that I would select in that position would share my views on those important issues.
Robbie George, Moderator: So more than just expectation – would share those views?
Gov. Romney: Yes, that person would share my views, yeah.
The YouTube video can be seen below and the exchange about a pro-life candidate takes place between 13:18 and 14:28.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, CEO of the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, released a statement saying that based on Romney's responses at the Palmetto Freedom Forum, Rice would not or should not be strongly considered.
"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," said Dannenfelser in her statement.
"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."
In an interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl on Friday, Romney said it was still his intention to stand by his commitment to pick a pro-life running mate and that he had nothing new to report on as it relates to the selection of a VP.
"I don't have anything for you on the vice presidential process," Romney told ABC. "I, of course, stand by the things I have said during the campaign. But I have nothing for you on the VP front."
But if Rice is not an acceptable choice for social conservatives, then who would be?
One of the country's most influential evangelical leaders agreed to talk to The Christian Post about the issue on background and threw out one name that has not surfaced in a while: former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
"If Romney wants conservatives to get excited about his choice for VP then he should pick Huckabee," they said. "He has all the credentials – he looks like the nice guy down the street who could be your insurance agent, he's smart and articulate and knows his way around Washington and Middle America. Yes, he would be an outstanding choice."
When asked if they thought Huckabee would accept an invitation to become Romney's running mate, their response was met with some laughter.
"Let me put it this way: I would not want to be between Mike Huckabee and a microphone immediately after he was asked. Of course he would accept."