Despite signs that Mitt Romney is close to picking someone else as his running mate, a new Fox News poll names Condoleezza Rice as the top pick among Republicans and general voters, and the candidate who may attract uncommitted voters.
Rice repeatedly has denied any interest in running for vice president, and multiple sources have told multiple news organizations that Rice is not in the running.
Still, the media’s obsession with Rice isn’t going away until Romney names his running mate sometime in late July or early August.
The Fox News poll results show Rice, 57, as the clear choice among Republicans nationally.
Rice was selected by 30 percent of Republicans, followed by Marco Rubio with 19 percent. The three potential candidates believed to be on Romney’s short list—Tim Pawlenty, Rob Portman and Bobby Jindal—combined for just 10 percent. A fourth, Paul Ryan, drew 8 percent of interest among Republicans.
Republicans in particular had little enthusiasm for Pawlenty, with only 2 percent wanting him as the vice presidential candidate.
Two other candidates, John Thune and Kelly Ayotte, weren’t in the survey.
Last week, conservative Internet maven Matt Drudge said in an exclusive story that Rice was on the Romney short list.
That report set off conservative bloggers, who pointed to Rice’s statements about abortion in the past, in which she described herself as “mildly” pro-choice on the issue. The Drudge story was also called a wishful “trial balloon” by some skeptics.
Romney has said during the GOP primary season that he wanted a pro-life candidate on the ticket.
But Rice was the star of a two-day Romney event for big ticket fundraisers in June, which set off speculation about her candidacy for the vice presidency.
Rice’s selection would be a game changer on the scale of Sarah Palin’s 2008 selection by John McCain.
Palin endorsed Rice with reservations last week, saying that Rice’s stance on abortion was tolerable, because the abortion issue needed to be decided within the legal system.
The question for the Romney camp is how it can resist the appeal of a candidate who could sway undecided voters, but also offend many conservatives who are pro-life.
Rice also differs with Romney on immigration policy, supporting the broader Bush-era reforms that were rejected by Congress.
But there are two key numbers in the poll that might catch the Romney camp’s eyes: President Barack Obama leads Romney by a 45 percent to 41 percent margin, but with Rice on the Romney ticket, the race is a tie at 46 percent.
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