Leading article: The drawbacks of Condi for Veep

 

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That Mitt Romney (white, male, Mormon) might look for a complementary Vice-President is understandable. And at first glance, Condoleezza Rice – an almost unique combination of black, female and Republican, with a long record of prestigious jobs – looks almost the perfect candidate.

If, in considering Condi, Mr Romney is recognising his own shortcomings, he earns points for realism at least. But the Republican challenger may also be thinking of polls showing that Barack Obama will keep many of his voters from 2008 – because they would otherwise feel they were betraying America's first black president. It is a consideration of which Mr Romney had best be wary.

Despite appearances, Condi would be a risky choice. Although she served in the Republican administrations of both Presidents Bush, father and son, she has very little political experience. She has never stood for elected office, is no natural on the stump. She also has political baggage, both as the adviser who told Bush Snr not to back Ukrainian independence and as National Security Adviser in the run-up to the Iraq war. Raising such ghosts may do the Republican cause more harm than good.

There is no denying that the campaign pictures would look wonderful. But the accepted wisdom that a candidate's choice of "Veep" has little bearing on their prospects does not stand up to close examination. Joe Biden's solidity and whiteness no doubt helped Mr Obama, while Sarah Palin very probably dragged on John McCain.

More than anything, Mr Romney is flirting with accusations of tokenism, if he goes ahead and chooses Condi as his running mate. The selection would just look too much like an – alarmingly cynical – attempt to steal a march on Mr Obama's unique selling point, his race. Nor is it likely to work, given that Mr Obama now has his presidential record on which to campaign.

Condi is an interesting suggestion; but she is absolutely the wrong choice. Unless, of course, one is a Democrat.

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