Erin McPike's "close examination of the [Romney] campaign's activity" at RealClearPolitics suggests four leading contenders for Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick—former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, Ohio senator Rob Portman, Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan, and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal. McPike's article is an intelligent explanation of why these men seem to be leading the pack, with New Hampshire senator Kelly Ayotte, Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, and Florida senator Marco Rubio as long shots.

Over at National Review Online, Jeffrey Anderson makes an intelligent case for Paul Ryan as the strongest pick from among them. For whatever it’s worth, I'm with Anderson, in the pro-Ryan camp. And if not Ryan, then I think my second choice would be Rubio or Jindal.

But it doesn't matter what Jeff Anderson thinks, or what I think. What matters is what Mitt Romney thinks.

Here's a clue to what Mitt Romney thinks—a clue that McPike doesn't mention, and that the media in general seem to be glossing over. Ann Romney—who presumably is better informed about her husband's thinking than the rest of us—said this week, "We've been looking at [picking a woman], and I love that option as well."

Who's the woman? It could be Kelly Ayotte or New Mexico governor Susana Martinez. But as much as I like both of them, I suspect Mitt Romney will see them as risky picks, lacking sufficient high-level government experience to unequivocally answer the question of whether they'd be qualified to take over. No, the woman Ann Romney likely has in mind is Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state.

Rice wowed the crowd—and seemed to impress Mitt Romney, who was standing beside her—when she spoke in a featured role at a Romney campaign event two weeks ago in Park City, Utah. Rice is qualified, would be a poised (if novice) candidate, and would complement Romney in terms of area of expertise, gender (obviously!), and life experience. Rice offers an unusual combination of being at once a reassuring pick (she served at the highest levels of the federal government for eight years) and an exciting one.

What's more, while the other VP possibilities have decent but middling favorable/unfavorable ratings (and are mostly unknown), Rice's favorable/unfavorable, according to a Rasmussen poll a couple of months ago, is a pretty staggering 66-24. Rice has said she's not interested—but Dick Cheney said he wasn't interested at this point in 2000.

Let me be clear: I'm not advocating the selection of Rice. I'm just reading the tea leaves, and the biggest tea leaf out there right now is Ann Romney's comment. It makes sense to take Ann Romney seriously. Cherchez la femme!


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