The Romney campaign played the media for a bunch of saps last week. After the Boston Globe revealed that Romney had continued to work for Bain Capital for several years longer than he claimed, they wanted to change the conversation. Talking about how Romney may have lied to either the Federal Election Commission or the Securities and Exchange Commission about his time with Bain is not what his campaign wanted to do.
So on Thursday they leaked to the Drudge Report that former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was at the top of his vice-presidential shortlist. The national media started chattering about this blatantly false claim. As Media Matters noted, ABC, NBC and the Wall Street Journal reported the Rice rumor as if it were a serious possibility. When Romney appeared on the Sunday morning talk shows he was asked about it.
The Beltway media have apparently never met any actual Republicans. Beltway Republicans are fiscal and social conservatives, but—being educated people—they are much less likely to oppose abortion rights and gay rights, and even less likely still to care deeply about the issues than are average Republican voters. Being too lazy to do any reporting on whether the Republican Party could conceivably nominate a pro-choice woman to be vice president—or to just read Game Change, which reports that John McCain and his staffers did not mind at all that Joe Lieberman is pro-choice but ultimately accepted that they could not pick him as McCain’s running mate because the Republican National Convention would be in revolt—pundits took this preposterous notion about Rice seriously.
ABC’s Jonathan Karl said that Drudge “has been accurate on Romney before.” Well, how is Drudge’s accuracy on previous vice-presidential selections? Not too good, as The American Spectator’s John Tabin points out: “Four years ago, Matt Drudge reported that Barack Obama was likely to select Evan Bayh as his running mate. Eight years ago, Drudge reported that John Kerry was likely to select Hillary Clinton as his running mate. Twelve years ago, Drudge reported that George W. Bush’s likely pick was Frank Keating.”
Romney has pledged to select a reliable conservative on social issues, and his campaign has privately reassured conservative pundits that this is the rare promise he will actually keep. “We’ve gotten assurance that he’ll stick to his pledge,” says Bryan Fischer, director of issue advocacy for the American Family Association. Erick Erickson, editor of the blog Red State, tweeted on the very night of Drudge’s report, “Multiple assurances from Team Romney tonight that Condi is not happening for Veep.”
“I’m guessing the Romney campaign leaked it as a trial balloon to see how social conservatives react,” Fischer speculates.
They reacted with horror. The word “non-starter” comes up repeatedly. “She’s a non-starter because she’s pro-abortion and soft on homosexual unions,” says Fischer.
“The former Secretary of State would be a non-starter choice mainly because she doesn’t fit the criteria that Governor Romney set for his VP pick,” wrote Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, in a statement. “During the primaries, Romney made very clear that his vice president would be pro-life, pro-marriage and a strong defender of religious liberty – and while Ms. Rice is many things, her record shows those three she is not. When you look at the Republican Party, there is no doubt that the pro-life position is a non-negotiable.”