Stop Trying to Make Condi Rice Happen

The ex-secretary of state isn't a good choice for Mitt Romney's VP. Let's stop pretending that she would be.

Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images

In Rice’s case, though, whenever she’s mentioned as a possibility, it not only underscores Romney’s relative lack of foreign policy chops, but it also comes off as sort of a weak-sauce attempt to showcase party diversity.

Like the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan suggesting that Rice might be the antidote to “a campaign that always threatens to take on a painful racial overlay.” But while talk of Rice might help Romney with Republican-leaning voters who want to see a more moderate, inclusive GOP, her close association with the Bush years means she’s no help with most African-American voters, for whom Bush remains particularly unpopular.

Republicans have legitimate Asian-American stars in South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (yes, “Asian American” includes South Asian) — and Latino stars in New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.

But the Republican roster of African Americans just isn’t there yet. Notable figures like my The Root colleague Michael Steele, Florida Congressman Allen West, Herman Cain and Condi Rice are all different individuals with very different reputations, but they’ve all got at least one thing in common: minimal traction among black voters.

Instead, keep your eye on the dynamic Mia Love, mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah. She’s Mormon, the daughter of Haitian-American immigrants and currently vying to become the first black woman Republican member of Congress. She’s got the potential to be a force in Republican politics and draw more African Americans to the conservative cause.

But that’s not Rice. She’s a nice idea, but not a for-real candidate out on the trail.

If the goal is a bigger-tent party, then Republicans’ time might be better spent looking for the next Jack Kemp. The GOP’s 1996 vice presidential nominee was a white guy who earned his credibility among African Americans because his interest in issues near and dear to black voters was understood to be sincere.

And that credibility might be more effectively attained by fine-tuning the conservative pitch to a wider contstituency instead of grasping for a “breath of fresh air.”

It’s true — the GOP could use more diversity. But let’s stop trying to make Condi happen and see if Republicans can do a better job of reaching out with conservative ideas.

David Swerdlick is a contributing editor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.