Could Fiorina, Brown or Condi Make It on the Presidential Ticket?

Republican presidential candidate businesswoman Carly Fiorina stands on stage for a pre-debate forum at the Quicken Loans Arena, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015,  in Cleveland. Seven of the candidates have not qualified for the primetime debate. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Only one Californian — actually a former Californian — is even given an outside chance of appearing on one of the major party presidential tickets. That would be Carly Fiorina, the former head of Hewlett-Packard who while a resident of this state lost a senate race to Barbara Boxer. Fiorina has since moved to the East Coast.

So it appears that no Californian will find a place on a major party ticket in 2016 — or maybe one could, but it would be even a longer shot.

We are still eleven months away from the Republican nominating convention in Cleveland and already pundits are having a field day with the ever-changing nature of the presidential campaign.

Forgive me for this wild speculation but I think it fits the tenor of the times when it comes to presidential punditry.

How might a Californian make a national ticket?

This past weekend, Governor Jerry Brown ruled himself out of the presidential race but said if he were Vice President Joe Biden he would seriously consider joining the race. What if Biden gets in and weakens front-runner Hillary Clinton? What if Vermont senator Bernie Sanders is able to make a strong enough showing to win some delegates? Could the Democrats enter the convention without a candidate securing the necessary delegate votes for the nomination?

Unlikely, but if this scenario plays out, Democrats would look for an alternative and I would venture a guess that Gov. Brown will be near the top of the list.

There is even a greater potential for a brokered nominating convention on the Republican side with so many candidates seeking the job. It is likely that the nominee would come from the announced candidates. The vice presidential nominee, however, could very well be someone not currently seeking the presidency.

A winning nominee, especially one who served as a state’s governor, may want a vice presidential candidate with experience in foreign affairs.

Former Secretary of State and current Stanford University professor Condoleezza Rice might make a nice fit. She always seemed averse to running a campaign but being tabbed to seek the high-profile station may be acceptable to her. She would add gravitas to a ticket—although there is little hope she could bring her home state along in the Electoral College count.

Will either of these scenarios play out? Don’t bet on it. But stranger things can and have happened in presidential campaigns. As evidence, just look at the goings on in the current race for the White House compared to predictions from just six months ago.

Ready for Condi (as VP)

453px-Condoleezza_Rice_croppedI’m not ready for Hillary. I’m not ready for a coronation. I believe — as Barbara Bush is reported to have said at some point — there are more families in this country than the Bushes and Clintons.


But America has increasingly become a country of brand equity and, rather than winning an election with ideas, parties look to overwhelm with soundbite sloganeering and the power of the brand.

There can be no doubt: for all the pitfalls, the Clinton brand is strong. And it would be made even stronger by the historic notion of electing the first woman president. Indeed, the time has come for a female president.

Just not Hillary…

Some Democratic pols have suggested that efforts to “Romnify” Hillary Clinton would be bound to fail. Mitt Romney was born rich. Hillary wasn’t. But what cost Mitt Romney the 2012 election was the fact that he by nature seemed incapable of understanding the Little Guy/Gal. Comments like “I’ll bet you $10,000…” simply symbolized the distance between him and us, no matter how hard he tried to be relatable.

Hillary’s comments about leaving the White House “dead broke” fall distinctly into this same category. Most Americans simply can’t identify with such statements, which are so foreign to their own lives. The fact that Hillary wasn’t born into wealth hardly mitigates the effect of such an attitude — if anything, quite the opposite. Mitt Romney seemed to be a patrician by nature, even if his father wasn’t. He was “to the manor born.” A genuinely nice guy (or so it seems), but completely out of touch with the average American.

As such, “Romnifying” Hillary should mean trying to portray Hillary Clinton as a well-meaning elitist. Nice, authentic, but simply too distanced from the Little Guy/Gal to really connect. Yet while she is going to great lengths to create the opposite impression, the main difference between Romney and Hillary seems to be one of authenticity. Mitt Romney seems like a genuinely nice, albeit out-of-touch rich dude. You might be able to have a beer with him, but probably wouldn’t have a lot to talk about. Hillary Clinton’s persona seems anything but authentic. The projected veneer of caring about the Little Guy/Gal seems poll-tailored and purely calculated for political gain.

Beyond the obvious other considerations, most Americans would like a president who we could have a beer with, and with whom the conversation wouldn’t feel forced or phony. In many ways, Hillary Clinton no longer seems like a real person; she seems like she has become the prototype of a virtual politician created by focus groups, pollsters and strategic marketing gurus. Her well-polled positions may seem better to many Americans than those which Romney espoused, but they seem almost robotic, lacking heart and authenticity, motivated by what seems to be bottomless ambition.

Beyond the Clinton transparency problems; beyond the sense that Hillary Clinton seems to feel there are two sets of rules: one for the Clintons and one for everybody else; beyond the authenticity issues so brilliantly captured by Kate McKinnon’s SNL portrayal of Clinton, there are voters who simply believe that they are “ready for Hillary” because she’s a woman and it’s time.

It’s not an argument as much as a feeling, but it is a very powerful feeling and difficult to counteract with anything but another female candidate. However, the Republican side, unfortunately, seems to be fresh out of viable female presidential candidates. But the Republicans still could — and should — put a woman on the 2016 presidential ticket.

No, not Sarah Palin.

How about Condoleezza Rice?

In a way, Condi is not only the anti-Sarah Palin, she’s also the anti-Hillary. Personally, I think she would make a great presidential candidate, but she has never run for office, and she refused to allow herself to be drafted to run for the U.S. Senate seat which Senator Barbara Boxer is vacating in California, even though polls in blue California put Condi on top. (When urged to run for Senate, she supposedly quipped that she didn’t want to be one of a hundred of anything.)

But Condi Rice could be the perfect Republican VP candidate in 2016.

Condi would be hard-pressed to say no to Jeb Bush, with whom she is close, should he get the Republican nomination. But a Bush-Rice ticket might reinforce the notion that a Bush 3.0 presidency is a blast from the past with the dynastic downside which a lot of Americans (including myself) want to avoid.

Condi would be the perfect VP to a number of other viable Republican candidates. Scott Walker has the executive experience, but lacks active foreign policy chops. Condi Rice, with all of her foreign policy experience, would be a marvelous counterbalance and complement to a governor like Walker or John Kasich from Ohio, whose jobs just don’t naturally involve a lot of international relations.

Emotionally and demographically, Condi as the Republican VP candidate could neutralize the zeal of certain voters to “create history” by voting for a female president. Condi Rice on the ticket allows voters to make another kind of history by electing a minority woman. Strategically, the inclusion of Condi on the ticket would allow the Republicans to contrast her record and persona with that of Hillary. Just look at the email situation when each was Secretary of State. Condi plays by the rules. Hillary plays by her own set of rules. Condi is erudite and seems somewhat shy, but she passes the “beer test” with flying colors.

This isn’t exactly the case with Hillary Clinton. As Jonah Goldberg wrote in 2007: “She may have star power, but you get the sense that most Americans would like to have their picture taken with her and then drink alone.” If anything, this has only gotten more extreme over the past few years, especially against the background of the Clinton Foundation’s squirrelly quest for foreign cash; there is a running SNL skit series yet to be written with Kate McKinnon as Hillary, struggling to have a beer with average Americans.

In short, Condi, brilliant as she is, seems both humble and authentic. Hillary, brilliant as she is, can’t help herself from exuding a thinly-veiled, self-entitled, ambition-fueled phoniness.

Obviously the top name on the ballot is extremely important; but on, say, a Walker-Rice or Kasich-Rice ticket, Condi could not only make the difference in the 2016 election, she could also play a major role in the succeeding Republican administration. She could help redefine the Republican Party as inclusive, tolerant and not just for rich people: a party of freedom, fairness and a force for the Little Guy/Gal.

One of Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogans is “Hillary for America.” It feels like it really should be “Hillary for Hillary.” Sorry, I’m just not ready for that. I’m not ready for a new flood of foundation donations from foreign governments and others anxious to gain access and presumably influence; not ready for a whole new panoply of conflicts of interest and appearances of impropriety; not ready for reasonable criticism to be dismissed with curt, Nixonian waves of the hand; not ready for dynastic politicians being held to lower standards than everyone else. If anything, I’m ready for some more realness in our political system, wherever it may come from. Heck, despite differences on some of the issues, I’d even be readier for Bernie or Elizabeth than I am for Hillary.

But I most certainly am ready for Condi. And for any number of reasons so should the Republican Party, so should the nation be ready for her, too.

John Mirisch is Vice Mayor of Beverly Hills

Condoleezza Rice Will Not Run For Senate — Despite Widespread Support

Political pundits and strategists finally are taking seriously that, despite topping polls, Condoleezza Rice is not running for the U.S. Senate. The decision by the former U.S. secretary of state puts California Republicans back on their heels. For the state GOP, the hunt is very much on for a heavyweight who could vault over the Democrats’ field of contenders in the race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer.

The opening Boxer will create in 2016 has attracted frenetic attention in California. So far Attorney General Kamala Harris successfully has kept competitors in her own party from declaring candidacies of their own. Nevertheless, challengers are expected — especially Latinos from Southern California — and the Republicans to step forward so far face a decidedly uphill climb.

Top Republicans, the Daily Caller reported, have shown an interest in Rice since at least January. In what some interpreted as a politician’s act of being coy, Rice permitted her staff to say in mid-February she was staying put in academia. “The poll doesn’t change her position about running for Senate,” Chief of staff Georgia Godfrey said at the time via email. “She plans to stay at Stanford.”

In another disavowal, Godfrey used even sharper language. “It’s not even a consideration,” he emailed The Hill. “She’s happy here at Stanford!”

But in late February, The Hill reported, the Black Conservatives Fund tried to nudge her toward the race anyway, distributing a fundraising email to back up the polling with donated cash. The email itself enthused:

“Condi is a true American success story. Her father was a minister. She’s an accomplished pianist, diplomat, and a role model for millions. But the best news of all is that if she runs, she can steal California’s U.S. Senate seat from the Democrats.”

A former provost of Stanford University, Rice has taken on what are now three concurrent titles: Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business; Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution; and professor of political science.

Hopes dashed

As Reuters reported, a Field Poll released last month showed Rice with a somewhat surprising lead against the entire field of possible candidates to replace Boxer. Rice sat atop the pack with 49 percent support. At the time, the poll listed 18 possible candidates, including some who have since bowed out, such as former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

But it raised hopes for California Republicans. In several election cycles past, they have put their party’s statewide fortunes in the hands of big-name would-be saviors, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO who now heads Hewlett-Packard.

An unclear path

On the other hand, enthusiasm for Rice could have been tempered by the state GOP’s track record with star candidates lacking in political experience. Although former HP chief Carly Fiorina has gone on to indicate she might seek the Republican nomination for president, she floundered in her own 2010 Senate bid in California. Whitman’s failed campaign cost her $140 million that same year.

And Schwarzenegger’s tenure in Sacramento was ultimately judged by many in the party to have been more trouble than it was worth. Some insiders viewed it as a squandered opportunity to rebuild the party and anoint a political heir — two items that seemed not to top Schwarzenegger’s own agenda.

With Rice gone, however, the fact remains that the current crop of would-be GOP challengers ranked at the bottom of the Field Poll. Although one poll cannot decide a race before it begins, the results reinforced a solidifying perception that someone of great stature was required to beat Harris.

The Field Poll’s results, for instance, did not even place Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who last November lost a race for state controller, in the lead among Republicans not named Rice. Swearengin finished with 22 percent “inclined” to support her, just after former state Sen. Phil Wyman, at 24 percent.

This article was originally published by

Here’s the full list from the Field Poll:

field poll us senate 2016

Condoleezza’s Insights Will Be Missed at Rutgers

“I am honored to have served my country.  I have defended America’s belief in free speech and the exchange of ideas.”  These are the words of Condoleezza Rice in her recent statement declining an invitation to speak at the commencement ceremony for graduating seniors at Rutgers University, due to protests from a small, but vocal, group of faculty and students.

It is unfortunate that select students and faculty at Rutgers are so enamored with a narrow perspective on life that it renders them incapable of considering the viewpoint of an individual mindful of a different angle.  The free exchange of ideas, so universally respected in American campuses, is seemingly limited to the free exchange of thoughts deemed progressive or liberal.  To some, the voice of a conservative is not deemed worthy of admission at a graduation ceremony.  Though unfortunate for its representation of narrow-minded academia run amuck, the greater injustice is to the graduating seniors themselves, who miss out on an opportunity to listen to the words of a historical figure in American history.  Condoleezza Rice, a woman of immense and diverse talents, would undoubtedly provide the graduating seniors with useful words of wisdom.

For instance, she might offer insights into the importance of the arts or athletics for a well-rounded individual – a relevant topic for Rice given her background as a renowned concert pianist and the fact that she was the first female entrant into the nation’s most prestigious golf club, Augusta National.  Additionally a former Board of Trustee member for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Rice has also performed music publicly with the likes of Yo-Yo Ma, one of the great cellists of our time.  Her years of classical training and experience with the high arts give her authority to speak on the topic.

Alternatively, she could offer her thoughts on the significance of higher education and the need to sharpen one’s mind throughout every stage of life.   Her tenure as a professor for over 30 years at one of the world’s premier institutions, Stanford University, might provide some appropriate perspective for this topic.  She might also add insights on the role of academia by discussing her position within the university’s administration, in which she served as the first female, first minority and youngest Provost in the history of Stanford.

Perhaps she might provide unique insights into a relevant issue of the day, such as the unfolding situation in Ukraine and Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea.  After all, she studied at Moscow State University in 1979 and has a Ph.D.  in political science, with a particular expertise in Russian and former Soviet affairs.  It was her expertise in this area that was the catalyst for her foray into public service, which would likely interest a few of the graduating seniors.  Speaking of public service, many students would welcome Rice’s thoughts as to how she was able to overcome the anger and despair of growing up in racially segregated Alabama to eventually become the first female African American Secretary of State in the history of the United States.

Or Rice could alternatively inform the students that one’s perspective on life is capable of evolving over time.  For instance, she could tell the story of a woman who viewed the world through a lens of inexperience and idealism in the late 1970s and called herself a Democrat.  Dissatisfaction with Democratic foreign policy in the late 70s and early 80s in part led her to become a Republican.  Rising within the ranks of the Republican party, she would go on to speak at the 2000 Republican National Convention.  There, she would tell the Convention that, “my father joined our party because the Democrats in Jim Crow Alabama of 1952 would not register him to vote.  The Republicans did.”

Rather than discussing her own experiences, she could sum up an overall message that a student’s perspective on life, particularly at the age of 22, is limited and subject to change.  She might quote single line from Hamlet, one of the most famous books in the English language: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Instead, the Rutgers students who successfully lobbied for Rice to drop herself as commencement speaker will continue to view the world from a particular, limited vantage point.  Perhaps one day, that perspective will change.

(Ben Everard is a contributor to California Political Review. Originally published on California Political Review.)