Former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney may be skipping the Republican National Convention later this month, where Mitt Romney is set to officially become his party’s 2012 presidential nominee.
But Condoleezza Rice, the former Bush secretary of state and national security adviser, and the first African-American woman to hold both roles, is scheduled to speak from the main podium, according to the Republican National Committee, which announced Monday the names of several speakers lined up for the event.
Besides Rice, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who was his party’s 2008 presidential nominee, will also have a major speaking role, the RNC said. McCain endorsed Romney in January at a critical moment after a surprisingly strong showing in the Iowa caucuses by former Sen. Rick Santorum.
Along with Rice, the RNC speakers’ list includes two other women who will give the Republicans a chance to showcase the diversity in their governors’ ranks — Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico.
Like Rice, both Haley and Martinez represent firsts, with Haley being the first female and Indian-American to be governor of the Palmetto State, and Martinez the first Hispanic female to be her state’s chief executive.
That Rice is being given a prominent speaking role is noteworthy for a few reasons, not least of which is that she was at the center of one of the most controversial decisions of the Bush administration, the invasion of Iraq, one of the most unpopular wars in U.S. history.
Her presence gives Democrats an opening to make a contrast between Bush’s foreign policy and national security record and Obama’s, and to link Romney to Bush.
Also on the list is conservative TV and radio host Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas. It was Huckabee, a former presidential candidate himself, who sparked the recent Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day that drew tens of thousands of gay-marriage opponents to the chain’s restaurants. The show of solidarity was designed to counter a backlash sparked by anti-gay-marriage remarks from the company’s president.
Two other governors scheduled to speak at the convention are Florida’s Rick Scott, whose state is hosting the event in Tampa, and Ohio’s John Kasich.
Ohio is viewed as all-important by both Romney and President Obama in the race for the White House. No Republican has ever won the White House without winning the Buckeye State.
Several of the politicians scheduled to speak at the Republican convention — indeed, all three of the women — have been considered as vice presidential possibilities for Romney by political watchers. For various reasons, however, they haven’t been at the top of observers’ lists.
The Republicans still haven’t announced who the convention’s keynote speaker will be. There has been some speculation that it could be New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, one of the party’s leading stars.
Last week, the Democrats announced that the keynote speaker at their convention, to be held in Charlotte in September, would be San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, considered a rising star in the Democratic Party.
His choice was seen as a way for Obama to underscore the importance of the Latino vote to his re-election and to his party’s future generally, as well as his efforts to reach out to those voters.
The Republicans’ choice of Martinez, New Mexico’s governor, gives the GOP a chance to try to appeal to some of those Latino voters as well.