GOP Can No Longer Afford to Ignore Winning Ticket: Condoleezza Rice

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The game is changing, and only one team is successfully adapting. Democrats won a 2012 presidential election in landslide fashion that, in the average Republican’s view, the GOP should not have lost. In the month before the election, the unemployment rate was hovering around 8 percent, federal spending was still high, and the economy had not improved significantly. “It’s time to fire the President!” many Republicans declared. Weak economic numbers were the perfect setup for the GOP to prove that President Obama’s policies were not working. On November 7th, Republicans were astounded to discover that their opportunity was squandered.

Instead of wondering what went wrong, Republicans must ask themselves – How can we change our strategy going forward in the 2016 presidential election? With the electorate changing, Republicans must alter their strategy, starting with their presidential candidate. If the GOP wants to win in 2016, they do not need to compromise their values. Rather, they need to run a candidate who is simultaneously non-controversial, appealing, unifying, and who motivates the demographics that the GOP has failed to reach in past elections. Their answer? Condoleezza Rice.

Before delving into her appeal to other demographics, it is important to establish Rice’s popularity within her own party. An interesting angle from which to analyze Condoleezza Rice’s overall popularity is her wasted potential to boost Governor Romney’s presidential campaign, had she been his running mate. Rice had a significantly higher favorability rating among Republicans than did other options, including Paul Ryan. Well before the Ryan pick, CNN/ORC polled Republicans to get their thoughts on the potential vice presidential candidates. The choices were Condoleezza Rice, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Rob Portman, Bobby Jindal, Bob McDonnell, and Rick Santorum. Rice blew away all the other contenders; her favorability rating was 80 percent. The second highest rated among Republicans was Governor Christie, with 55 percent favorability. The Tea Party, a powerful faction within the GOP, had an 85 percent favorability rating of Rice. In the same poll, 26 percent of Republicans wanted Rice as the vice presidential candidate, a far greater percentage than the other potential candidates received. If Republicans were desperate for a running mate who would excite, motivate, and unite the party, Rice would have clearly been a better choice than Ryan; it is evident that the party embraces her.

Many Republicans embraced Romney’s economic credentials while the campaign itself promoted his business background to gain support. Since Condoleezza Rice was previously George W. Bush’s Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, it appeared to many that unlike Romney, she had no economic background. However, Rice actually has a strong business background: in the private sector, she has served on the board of directors for Chevron, Carnegie Corporation, Charles Schwab, Hewlett Packard, the Rand Corporation, and the Transamerica Corporation.[23] She portrays herself as a fiscal conservative, and matches the criteria for an ideal Republican candidate.

Throughout the 2012 election, Republicans were criticized for their inability to appeal to women, Hispanics, African Americans, and the middle class. Let’s see how candidate Rice fares with these groups.

Republicans are constantly forced to defend their positions on social issues such as abortion. In order to win, Republicans need to do well with female voters, and during the 2012 election cycle, the GOP struggled to accomplish this. Rice would have been able to articulate the benefits of the GOP platform from a woman’s perspective.

Her social policies are not as extreme and intimidating to women as those of the Republican platform. In a 60 Minutes interview in 2008, Rice said she was “against late-term abortion.” However, Rice added that she does not want “to see the law changed because it’s an area that [she worries] about the government being involved in.”[12] This is not a policy that will cause outrage on the right. It will also not push away the female vote in general. A CNN poll from the summer of 2012 noted that Rice had a 63 percent favorability rating among independent women.

Among Republican women, Rice dominates the field with a 79 percent female favorability rating.[4] If the GOP is serious about getting women to the polls, they need to take note of the fact that Rice would significantly exceed all other Republican candidates in garnering female support, making her a serious and viable candidate for 2016.

The traditional Democratic popularity with registered Hispanic voters also has the potential to be challenged by Rice as the Republican presidential nominee. In fact, 51 percent of the Latino population feels that immigration is one of the two most important issues facing the United States today.[8] The GOP immigration policy has become too radical for many Latinos to feel comfortable voting Republican. Rice has the ability to change this. In Rice’s primetime speech at the Republican National Convention, she dissented from the Republican platform, arguing that “we need immigration laws that protect our borders, meet our economic needs, and yet show that we are a compassionate nation for immigrants.”[3] Rice is in favor of amnesty for undocumented immigrants, and believes that deporting them is not the American way. This opinion would clearly encourage more Latino voters to vote conservative. It is crucial that the Republican party closes this wide gap among Latino voters, and Rice’s moderate view of illegal immigration could further this essential objective.

Rice also would have greater success in drawing a portion of the black community to the Republican ticket. Although Democrats will most likely still win the African American vote in 2016, Rice could narrow this margin. In a June 2012 poll, Condoleezza Rice had a 58 percent favorability rating among black voters, which is “unusual for a prominent Republican.”[16] There is no doubt that Rice’s unusually high favorability ratings would help circulate the Republican cause within the black community. It is a demographic with which Republicans have historically had trouble, and if the GOP is serious about appealing to a wide range of demographics in 2016, Rice has the potential to change that.

A common criticism during the 2012 campaign was that the GOP only appeals to America’s rich, not its struggling middle class. According to the CNN/ORC poll, 64 percent of respondents said that Romney’s conservative policies benefit the rich over the middle class and poor. Meanwhile, only 42 percent of respondents felt that Obama’s policies benefited the rich. Rice would have been the candidate to challenge this notion.

Among Republicans earning under $50,000 per year, Rice has a staggering 78 percent favorability rating. Among Republicans earning over $50,000 per year, Rice has an 84 percent favorability rating.[5] Although this poll was only done with Republicans, the results are telling. Rice has an overwhelming advantage over other prominent Republicans in terms of support from the middle class. Running Rice in 2016 would help Republicans shed the claims that their party is only supported by the upper class. Rice is seen as non-controversial by the middle class, making her an attractive candidate for Republicans.

She rallied the crowd during her speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention. Her speech “was fiery”; it made “the crowd at the Republican National Convention go wild, giving her standing ovation after standing ovation.”[10] Rice’s speech was simply inspirational. More importantly, her words united the party. If Republicans select a candidate who can consistently rally crowds, put people on their feet, and motivate supporters, they can win back the presidency.

The Grand Old Party has always identified itself as the party of fiscal responsibility. In a modern-day America with growing debt and deficit, the GOP’s policy of reining in spending is reasonable; in fact, it is a policy that can connect with many voters.

The problem? Republicans have struggled to find candidates who can connect with and motivate certain demographics to buy into the message. Instead, voters question Republican nominees’ views on other issues, such as social policy. Polling data shows Rice clearly has the ability to do what Republicans have struggled with in the past: deliver the message and expand the Republican base.

For all these reasons, Condoleezza Rice is an undoubtedly compelling choice for the GOP in 2016.

Sam Zorfas
Political Science ’15


[1] Adkinson, Danny M. “The Electoral Significance of the Vice Presidency.” Presidential Studies Quarterly. Last modified Summer 1982. Accessed December 2, 2012.

[2] “Bill Summary & Status 111th Congress (2009 – 2010) H.R.5939.” Library of Congress. Last modified July 29, 2010. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[3] Bowyer, Jerry. “Condoleezza Rice Is Right About Immigration, And the Nostalgists Are Wrong.” Forbes. Last modified August 31, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[4] “CNN ORC Poll.” CNN. Last modified July 5, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[5] “CNN/ORC Poll.” CNN. Last modified April 18, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[6] “Colorado still leaning Obama’s way.” Public Policy Polling. Last modified August 7, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[7] Florida Division of Elections. Last modified November 20, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[8] “impreMedia/Latino Decisions Weekly Political Tracking Poll Week 1: Aug 27, 2012.” Latino Decisions. Last modified August 27, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[9] Kaplan, Rebecca. “Ryan booed, Obama cheered at AARP conference.” CBS News. Last modified September 21, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[10] Brett. “The GOP Convention Went Nuts for Condi Rice’s Speech.” Business Insider. Last modified August 29, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[11] Madison, Lucy. “Fact-checking 6 claims in Paul Ryan’s convention speech.” CBS News. Last modified August 30, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[12] McCormack, John. “Condi Rice’s Views on Abortion.” The Weekly Standard. Last modified July 9, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[13] McPike, Erin. “Ryan’s Medicare Plan: How Big a Factor in Florida?” Real Clear Politics. Last modified August 14, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[14] “On The Issues: Paul Ryan.” On The Issues. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[15] Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections. Last modified November 16, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[16] “Poll Watch: Rasmussen (R) 2012 Vice Presidential Favorability Survey.” The Argo Journal. Last modified July 17, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[17] Polsby, Nelson W., and Aaron Wildavsky. Presidential Elections: Strategies and Structures of American Politics. New York City, NY: Chatham House Publishers, 1984.

[18] “President – General – Election Results by County.” Wisconsin Vote. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[19] Przybyla, Heidi. “Ryan Medicare Plan Would Make Americans Worse by 57%-34%, Poll Shows.” Edited by Mark Silva. Bloomberg. Last modified June 23, 2011. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[20] Rose, Gregory. “6 Reasons Why Paul Ryan is Wrong for Mitt Romney and America.” Policy Mic. Last modified August 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[21] “‘The Same’ – Obama for America TV Ad.” YouTube. Last modified August 17, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[22] Sigleman, Lee, and Paul J. Wahlbeck. “The ‘Veepstakes’: Strategic Choice in Presidential Running Mate Selection.” American Political Review. Last modified December 1997. Accessed December 2, 2012.

[23] Stanford University. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[24] Ungar, Rick. “Romney’s Demise May Be Traceable To These Two Words-‘Self Deportation’.” Forbes. Last modified November 7, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[25] Ward, Jon. “Mitt Romney Trails President Obama With Women Voters In Ohio.” Huffington Post. Last modified July 17, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[26] “Wisconsin: Romney vs. Obama.” Real Clear Politics. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[27] YouTube. Last modified March 12, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

[28] YouTube. Last modified August 17, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

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