I wrote earlier about the Twitter reaction from the media after Condoleezza Rice’s powerful, moving speech, speculating on her future as a Republican candidate for President or VP. The conventional wisdom holds that a person who engages in a prime-time effort at a national convention (and especially one who delivers as Rice did) has a burning desire to use the speech as a springboard for a future election. That was certainly true for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, but Rice could have had the #2 slot this time, I suspect, if she truly desired it. She could have run for President this time too, or for the Senate in California against Diane Feinstein. Rice has never shown any desire for electoral office; I’d bet she might aspire to a place in the Romney administration, but even that might not appeal to Rice a second time around.
The evening did feature a woman who laid claim to the GOP future, though she didn’t get the same speculation as did Rice. New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, the nation’s first female Hispanic governor, introduced herself to American voters across the nation last night in an emotional, humorous, and powerful speech. The most affecting portion came when she told the story of how she came to realize that she was a Republican:
I fear some of our leaders today have lost the courage to stand up. What we have now are politicians. They won’t offer real plans, and only stand up when they want to blame someone else.
And I don’t say that just because a Democrat is in the White House, I was a Democrat for many years, so were my parents.
Before I ran for district attorney, two Republicans invited my husband and me to lunch, and I knew a party switch was exactly what they wanted. So, I told Chuck, “We’ll be polite, enjoy a free lunch, and then say good-bye.” But we talked about issues — they never used the words Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. We talked about many issues, like welfare, is it the way of life or hand up? Talked about size of government, how much should it tax families and small businesses? And when we left that lunch, we got in the car and I looked over at Chuck and said, “I’ll be damned. We’re Republicans.”
Martinez’ story plays into one of the compelling themes of the convention, which asks voters to reconsider their partisan affiliation. That won’t work with the Chris Matthewses of the world, obviously, but they aren’t the audience. I mean that literally; on the NBC News website, the page that lists the Wednesday night speeches at the convention doesn’t have Martinez mentioned at all. Martinez spoke to those whose Democratic leanings are more habit than purposeful, who have found themselves dissatisfied by Hope and Change, and whose core values come much closer to the individual empowerment and economic freedom of the GOP.
Her message of Todo es posible will resonate with these voters. It’s also a good description of Martinez’ future in the GOP.