By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's name surfaced briefly as a possible vice presidential running mate for Mitt Romney, but faded quickly as an aide said on Friday she was still not interested in the position.
The Drudge Report reported on Thursday that Rice was a front-runner for the No. 2 spot on the Republican presidential ticket, prompting endorsements by some leading conservatives.
Romney's campaign has not commented. But the candidate and his advisers have acknowledged they are considering naming his choice some weeks earlier than the traditional time around the Republican National Convention, which will be held in late August.
An aide to Rice, who is now at Stanford University in California, said she was standing by previous statements that she was not interested in the position. "Nothing has changed," Georgia Godfrey, Rice's chief of staff, said in an email.
Rice said in an interview with CBS News last month that she would not seek the vice presidency. "I don't see myself in any way in elected office. I love policy. I'm not particularly fond of politics," she said in the interview on June 26.
Rice seems an unlikely choice for Romney.
While she is personally popular and would beef up the foreign policy credentials of the former governor of Massachusetts, Rice has never held elected office and is to the left of the likely Republican nominee on hot-button domestic policy issues.
ABORTION LITMUS TEST
Most prominently, Rice has said publicly she is "mildly pro-choice" on abortion rights and would not favor overturning Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Romney, who supports overturning Roe, has promised that his running mate will also oppose abortion rights.
Some conservative Republicans said Romney should not be considering Rice.
"We want someone who conservatives recognize as one of their own, not some nominal Republican who the news media thinks of as a conservative because he or she has an "R" for Republican beside their name," said conservative activist Richard Viguerie. "And that describes the pro-choice Condoleeza Rice all too well."
Analysts said members of Romney's team might have floated the Rice speculation as a way to change the subject after a week in which Democratic attacks on Romney's record as a private equity executive at Bain Capital have dominated campaign news.
"I think this is a clever diversion by the Romney folks after what has clearly been an off week for them," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said.
Rice is also closely associated with former Republican President George W. Bush, who left office with a 34 percent approval rating. As the face of his foreign policy, she was involved in controversial aspects of his presidency, including starting the war in Iraq.
Romney's short list of potential running mates is believed to include a host of leading Republicans, including Ohio Senator Rob Portman, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
His wife, Ann, said in a recent CBS interview that Romney was considering whether to name a woman, which raised talk about Rice as well as New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte.
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who was Republican Senator John McCain's running mate in 2008, offered her support for a Rice candidacy. "Condoleezza Rice would be a wonderful vice president," Palin said on Fox News.
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Editing by Peter Cooney)