Will Romney Pick a Woman to Be His Vice President?

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice answers questions from reporters at Mississippi College in Clinton, …We may be ready for a woman to be Vice President on television -- witness HBO's new political comedy, "Veep,"which debuted last night -- but in real life, conservative pundits say that the chances of Mitt Romney picking a female running mate are slim to none.

Last week, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice was the popular pick for Vice President, according to a CNN/ORC International survey. Twenty-six percent of Republicans and conservative-leaning independents said that they'd choose Rice, who also served as President George W. Bush's national security adviser, and 36 percent of Republicans who aren't in the Tea Party said she was their top choice, beating out former GOP hopeful Rick Santorum, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie by wide margins.

"Name recognition is the key," CNN polling director Keating Holland said. "Rice and Santorum are best known and they top the overall wish list."

But some say that the country's experience with former Alaska Governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin -- a person with even more name recognition than Rice -- may have made it impossible for a woman to get the VP nod this year.

When White House advisor and political commentator Van Jones floated the idea of a Romney/Rice ticket last week on ABC News, conservative pundit Ann Coulter dismissed it immediately.

"If you want to do something shocking, you want the tea party base excited, nobody has talked about Condoleezza Rice," Jones said. "But think about this: She checks off a lot of boxes, as far as women, she's a person of color, if the optics matter. But she's actually tested. She is actually a national figure. She has foreign policy experience. She was secretary of state. And she's sitting there." Coulter's response? "Not a chance. Too much like a Sarah Palin."

"The specter of Sarah Palin does hang over the whole process. There's no doubt about that," Dan Judy, a Republican strategist, told ABC News. "That whole experience ended up not being particularly positive, and I think that picking a woman -- even one who is incredibly well qualified -- would open the door to a lot of questions about trying to pander to women or making kind of a purely political pick."

Though Romney said last week that he'd be open to asking a woman to be his running mate, his main requirement is that the person he picks should be able to "lead the country as president if that were necessary."

"There are women who meet that requirement, as well as men," Romney told CNBC. "We got a long list of people who are really extraordinary leaders in the Republican Party, and you can think of those names, as I can."

Unfortunately, none of the female names from that long list seem to have made it onto his short list. According to Reuters, the focus is on five people: Ohio Senator Bob Portman, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Rubio, and Christie.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus isn't a politician, but she plays one on TV, as the lead character in HBO's new comedy "Veep." She interviewed several real-life vice presidents while prepping for the role and, she says, "The reality is, a driven politician does not desire the role of vice president."

So far, the real-life response from GOP vice presidential possibilities seem to bear that out. New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, who has more experience in government than Barack Obama had when he ran for president in 2008, told the Nashua Telegraph on Monday that she's flattered, but she's concentrating on her job in the Senate right now.

"I just got elected to the Senate by the good people of New Hampshire, and that has been and will continue to be my only focus," she said.

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley is another Republican favorite, even though she has repeatedly said that she wouldn't accept the VP nomination. And, as for Rice, she's been making her lack of interest clear for years.

"I have done my time. And I'm sure there will be some very fine vice presidential candidates. I'm not one of them, " she told CBS News in 2011. When pressed, she continued: "I'm not someone who should be in politics. I'm someone who should be in policy. I'm not interested in being vice president."

Given that the economy is the main cause of the gender gap between Mitt Romney and President Obama, it's unclear whether naming a female running mate would be enough to bridge the divide. But really, assuming that all it would take is a woman on the GOP ticket is kind of insulting to women in general. We're not interchangeable. We don't vote for a candidate based on her gender alone. The biggest thing Sarah Palin has in common with these other potential GOP candidates, aside from being a Republican, is the fact that she's female -- and that shouldn't be the factor that makes or breaks a nomination.

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