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March 12, 2005
Rice Tempers Presidential Fever For GOP

Condoleezza Rice gave an extended interview to the Washington Times editorial board yesterday, and Bill Sammon reports that while Rice didn't specifically rule out a presidential run in 2008, she certainly didn't endorse the notion either. However, the Republican base may have second thoughts about Rice at the top of a ticket after hearing her center-right views on abortion that can best be described as somewhere between Rudy Giuliani and the Vatican:

"I have enormous respect for people who do run for office. It's really hard for me to imagine myself in that role."

She was then pressed on whether she would rule out a White House bid by reprising Gen. William T. Sherman's 1884 declaration: "If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve."

"Well, that's not fair," she protested with a chuckle. "The last thing I can I really can't imagine it."

I don't think that Rice suffers from a lack of imagination. As Secretary of State, she hews to the traditional nonpartisanship that the nation's primary foreign diplomat usually uses, in order to present American policy abroad with as much clout as possible. Colin Powell did the same thing, which is why some people didn't really believe him when he said he had no political aspirations -- until he retired in January and still refused to run, either for Senate of Governor. It's entirely possible that Rice has no desire for electoral battles, or equally possible that a front-runner status would attract her to the GOP ticket in 2008.

If the latter develops, she will wind up having to work overtime to bring out the Republican base with her more laissez-faire approach to abortion. Rice sounds out a position that comes close to where Hillary Clinton wants to claim, the Clintonian construct that says abortions should be safe but rare:

Miss Rice said abortion should be "as rare a circumstance as possible," although without excessive government intervention. "We should not have the federal government in a position where it is forcing its views on one side or the other.

"So, for instance, I've tended to agree with those who do not favor federal funding for abortion, because I believe that those who hold a strong moral view on the other side should not be forced to fund it."

Describing pro-lifers as "the other side" is one of the ways Miss Rice articulates her position as a "mildly pro-choice" Republican. She explained that she is "in effect kind of libertarian on this issue," adding: "I have been concerned about a government role.

"I am a strong proponent of parental notification. I am a strong proponent of a ban on late-term abortion. These are all things that I think unite people and I think that that's where we should be.

"We ought to have a culture that says, 'Who wants to have an abortion? Who wants to see a daughter or a friend or a sibling go through something like that?' "

Bear in mind that this position will fly much better with mainstream Republicanism than Hillary's will with mainstream Democrats. The tent on abortion has always been larger for GOP politicians, mostly due to the reliance of Democrats on large-scale funding from rabidly pro-abortion lobbies. The Republicans operate more on individual contributions -- one of the reasons the BCRA hurt Democrats more than Republicans -- and this allows for a greater range of legitimate national candidates. Still, in a close election, failing to energize the significant segment of the party base for whom abortion is a single-issue determinant of their votes could lose the White House for the GOP.

The question, if Rice does run and manage to win the nomination, is whether that will be the case. Presuming that Hillary wins the Democratic nomination, the gender gap should be neutralized, which would favor the GOP, at least slightly. It might energize women and African-Americans on the center politically, which would devastate the Democrats. If she can withstand the brutal primary and general election process, she could force Hillary so far to the right that the International ANSWER/MoveOn faction splits off from the Democrats and goes Green instead.

The question will be whether Rice can win in the primaries. Normally, I'd bet against someone who never ran for office before. However, after the concerted political fire she took for her confirmation vote in the Senate, I'd say she has the toughness to do it. If she wants it, it's probably hers to take.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 12, 2005 10:36 AM

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[...]Now, what will be really interesting is the way that the MSM will fawn all over Hillary and her "centrist" positions... while attacking Condi as a neocon nutjob.[...] [Read More]

Tracked on March 12, 2005 2:52 PM

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