The political world was abuzz last night after the Drudge Report reported that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was a frontrunner for Romney's running mate spot. The leak was immediately treated with a healthy dose of skepticism from the political class: Rice has said she's not interested in the job, she has no political experience, she supports abortion rights in a party that regards that as a near-litmus test, and hawks don't have fond memories of her foreign policy record in the Bush administration. Many went a stop further, mocking Drudge's track record in predicting the veepstakes (he hyped Frank Keating in 2000, Dick Gephardt in 2004, and Evan Bayh in 2008). And pundits noted the suspicious timing of the leaked news, right after Romney faced tough new questions about the timing of his tenure at Bain Capital.But the floating of Rice sounds a lot more like a trial balloon from the Romney campaign than deliberately bad information that Drudge cooked up. Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades is famously close to Drudge, suggesting there's a deliberate strategy at play here for the campaign.And there are reasons why Romney would consider Rice, if she was interested, for the position. She drew rave reviews for her in-depth foreign policy speech at Romney's Park City retreat last month, where offered up a lot of red meat rhetoric against the president. Politically speaking, she could win over enough female voters, and perhaps cut a little into the African-American vote -- which could put Romney over the top. The conservative base is already so steamed with President Obama that a little apostasy from certain conservative corners might not make a big difference.
Make no mistake: Rice is still a long-shot for the spot. She would add an awful lot of risk for a candidate whose political career has spent avoiding it. But the leak sounded a lot like a deliberate test for how conservatives would react, rather than bad information from an overexuberant source outside Romneyland. If she generated some favorable buzz, that could indeed suggest she'd be in the running. But with many conservative opinion leaders expressing their displeasure and the media not buying it, it's hard to see a realistic path for Rice on the Romney ticket.