Poll: Of select potential veeps, Condoleezza Rice has highest favorability rating among Republicans

Of certain select potential vice presidential running mates for Mitt Romney, Condoleezza Rice is by far the most popular among Republicans and it’s not even close, according to a CNN/ORC poll. Rice boasts an approval rating of 80 percent, leading Rick Santorum, whose favorability stands at 65 percent, by 15 points. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie follows with 55 percent, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan are one point apart at 44 percent and 43 percent respectively.

Furthermore, Rice pulled a plurality of support — or 26 percent — in answer to the explicit question, “Of the people I just mentioned, which one would you most like to see Mitt Romney choose as his vice presidential running mate … ?” The rest of the list corresponded with the favorability ratings, as well, with 21 percent saying they hope Romney will choose Santorum, 14 percent Christie, 14 percent Rubio and just 8 percent Ryan.

Among Tea Partiers, though, it’s a slightly different story. While 85 percent of Tea Partiers have a favorable opinion of her, she isn’t the Tea Party pick for VP. A plurality — 22 percent — picked Rubio, another 18 percent selected Christie and 16 percent selected Rice.

The “Results for Republicans Only” are based on a sample of just 473 Republicans and the margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. The interviewers also asked Republicans for their opinions about Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman.

Condi’s ticket-balancing credentials are obvious, she would more than hold her own in a debate, she’s been tested in the national spotlight and she has a kind of grace and gravitas that seemingly leave her unfazed by anything. She’s equally comfortable defending controversial foreign policy as she is playing classical piano for the queen. She’s certainly a compelling choice, and I can understand why she polled as well as she did.

Still, though, not even a full week of veepstakes has made me change my mind that Paul Ryan should still be Mitt Romney’s man. A recent column by Michael Barone articulates perfectly why he’s the unpredictable predictable (or the predictable unpredictable) choice:

Anyway, ticket-balancing is not the only successful approach, as Bill Clinton understood. When he clinched the Democratic nomination in 1992 as a Southern moderate, it was widely assumed he would pick a Northern liberal, as Jimmy Carter had.

Instead he chose a fellow Southern Baptist of his own generation with a reputation for moderation and congressional experience in national security issues, Al Gore. They were from adjoining Southern states and when the ticket was announced they met on the bridge between West Memphis, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee.

This unbalanced ticket won two elections, carrying six of 14 Southern states in both 1992 and 1996. Democratic nominees from Massachusetts, both with Southern running mates, carried none in 1988 and 2004.

A similar approach for Mitt Romney would be what opponents might call a double-vanilla ticket, with another white male as vice presidential nominee.

Four possibilities come to mind. One is Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman who endorsed Romney and campaigned with him all over Wisconsin. Romney has praised Ryan’s budget proposals and has endorsed the fundamentals of Ryan’s Medicare plan.

If Romney were to select Ryan, it would embolden Republicans and stun Democrats, who have done their best to suggest that Ryan — and, indeed, his entire budget — will be a liability in the general election. In fact, it’s Democrats’ lack of a plan to ensure the solvency of Medicare — Democrats’ desire to let Medicare go bust — that’s a liability if Republicans only have the temerity and tenacity to point that out relentlessly.

As always, though, Romney has a very deep bench from which to select a vice president. As long as his VP helps to mobilize the anti-Obama vote — on which Romney will undoubtedly depend for election — he should be fine.

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