Sometimes conventional wisdom is right, and sometimes it is wrong. In the case of Mitt Romney's selection of a 2012 vice presidential running mate, it may actually be both.
One piece of conventional wisdom circulating right now is that Mitt Romney should not pick a boring white guy as his running mate. This is correct, and he would be wise to carefully think through the implications of this insight. In the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama was selected by 95% of African-Americans and 70% of unmarried women voters, while losing to John McCain when married women picked their candidate. What does this mean for the 2012 election? Obama is unlikely to generate again the extremely high level of enthusiasm he had with blacks and unmarried women, but he has a chance to improve his standing with married women. But if Romney does a poor job picking his running mate, Obama could actually do well with all three types of voters.
Another piece of current political wisdom is that Romney should pick a running mate who would please Tea Party voters and fiscal conservatives. This is wrong, and he would be wise to ignore this advice. In the general election -- where voters will be forced to make an "either or" choice between Romney and Obama -- fiscally conservative voters will cast their lot overwhelmingly for Romney. The American people have had more than three years to watch Obama serve as President, and almost no one thinks of him as a fiscal conservative. Romney should not waste his pick on someone such as Paul Ryan from Wisconsin.
Romney should therefore consider Condoleezza Rice, the former United States Secretary of State, as a potential running mate. Rice would complement Romney with respect to race and gender, but her qualifications as a vice president go far beyond these demographic details. First, she is a woman of substance -- self-made, smart, level-headed -- who would bring gravitas and perspective to one of the nation's most important offices. Second, Rice has served in two previous White House administrations and her prior experience functioning on the world's stage will help her to be successful as vice president. Finally, the former secretary of state and national security advisor is unquestionably a foreign policy expert and seasoned diplomat. She would bring continuity to the United States' international relationships.
Romney's selection of Rice would also signal to the American people his leadership style. Voters would realize that he cares about substance and experience, while also acknowledging the diversity of our country in 2012. Condoleezza Rice is the right choice as Romney's vice president.