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Monday, October 24, 2005

Rice's Bama Blast: Homecoming or Kickoff?

There's been no shortage of coverage of Condoleeza Rice's Alabama "homecoming" visit. Rice visited her home state to show British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw (there is a good Iraq war/"Straw man" joke in there somewhere) the rest of the country.

Though she still demurs the notion of a presidential run, the national media's speculation endures. The ubiquitous Dick Morris has a book touting a Condi/Hillary 2008 matchup. There was even speculation last week that Rice would be elevated to VP if Cheney was forced to resign due to the Plame scandal . Closer to home, Reuters has an interesting piece viewing her Alabama trip through the lends of a possible 2008 run.

I've long been skeptical about the Beltway buzz surrounding a Rice candidacy for the following reasons:

-- She's never run for office before. The last president to never have previously served in elective office was Eisenhower.

-- She's never shown a flair for politics. She's an academic at heart and has generally eschewed the political spotlight.

-- She's no social conservative. Condi is on the record as pro-choice and pro-affirmative action. That's a tough sell in a GOP primary.

-- Of course there is the whole gender and race thing. Does a woman get a fair shake on the campaign trail? Does an African-American? Just ask Elizabeth Dole or Jessie Jackson. Actually, don't ask Jessie.

-- Finally, of course Democrats will be tired of Bush by 2008, but it is starting to look like a lot of Republicans will be ready for some new blood themselves. Condi is nothing if not a Bush loyalist, which might be too close for comfort for some on the right.

So that's why I am generally skeptical of the Rice hype. However, if Rice is seriously considering a 2008 run, then she has to know that Southern conservatives have a near veto power on the Republican nomination. And her successful (thanks to Roman Harper) trip into the "Heart of Dixie" might well be a preliminary step in a larger effort. Rice might not ever be the first choice of the hardcore GOP in the South, but if she can at least be an acceptable alternative then that might be enough.

I'll take Rice at her word that she doesn't intend to run. And even if she did I think she'd have a tough time getting the nomination. But if we are sitting here two years from now in the middle of a Rice presidentail campaign, we might be able to look back to her Alabama trip as the first step in a historic journey.

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