By John David Dyche
Barack Obama may be the least qualified person ever elected to the presidency. Many Americans apparently overlooked his thin resume' because they wanted to elect the nation's first African American president.
Hillary Clinton, who has done little to warrant her considerable popularity, is poised to profit from a similar sentiment. Lots of voters are ready to ignore her many liabilities and lack of successful accomplishments in order to put a female in the Oval Office for the first time.
Unfortunately, such superficial considerations are often how this country makes its most important decisions nowadays. Symbolism matters more than actual qualifications do.
There are several women on the political scene who are potentially qualified to be president, however. Many of them are Republicans.
Although none seems inclined to wage a presidential campaign, one could well find herself on the GOP's national ticket, especially if the Democrats nominate Clinton. Republicans have had a female vice presidential candidate before – Sarah Palin in 2008 – but the party has much better options in 2016.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is at the top of the list. Rice, 58, who would be the first African-American Republican on a national ticket, is brilliant, experienced, and popular, but she shows no inclination to pursue elective politics.
Rice's "mildly pro-choice" position on abortion might be an asset in a general election, but is also the biggest obstacle to her nomination in a predominately pro-life party. Her nomination would also make an issue of the George W. Bush administration's controversial foreign policy.
New Mexico governor Susana Martinez, 54, has earned the right to consideration. She is the first Latina governor in U. S. history, which would help Republicans with an increasingly important voting bloc, and hails from a critical swing state that the party needs to carry.
Martinez offers a middle class background that post-Romney Republicans really need. She has a 66 percent approval rating according to one recent poll and looks like a shoo-in for reelection next year.
Nikki Haley of South Carolina is another governor with national potential. Haley, 41, is the daughter of Indian immigrants.
She boasts of creating 39,000 new jobs in her state and has lifetime "A" ratings from the South Carolina Club for Growth, the Palmetto Family Council, and the National Rifle Association. Her conservative accomplishments include tax relief for small businesses, pension reform, Medicaid reform, illegal immigration reform, a voter ID law, and an inspector general to fight fraud and waste.
But Haley has also had some problems in the rough and tumble of South Carolina state politics, and her approval ratings are not nearly as impressive as Martinez's. But if she wins reelection she will be well-positioned as a potential presidential king-maker in an early primary state.
If the Republican standard-bearer comes from among the many fine male governors – like New Jersey's Chris Christie, Wisconsin's Scott Walker, or Louisiana's Bobby Jindal – it might make sense to seek a running mate with congressional experience. Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee fills that bill.
The feisty Blackburn, 61, from suburban Nashville, has impeccable conservative credentials. She could play the attack dog role traditionally assigned to vice presidential candidates, but her Southern manner would make her less likely to alienate independent voters in the process.
The national security credentials of New Hampshire's Senator Kelly Ayotte, 45, could complement a GOP ticket topped by a governor. Her background in small business and as a prosecutor is also an asset.
Ayotte's frequent association with Arizona Senator John McCain and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham could hurt her with conservatives, however. The trio gets a lot of things right, like their crusade to get to the bottom of the Benghazi attacks, but they drive the Republican right crazy in many respects.
The GOP still needs to close the so-called gender gap. Palin proved that merely putting a woman on the ticket is not enough. Fallout from that effort suggests that the wrong woman will do more harm than good.
Part of the party's problem with women voters is issue-driven and will always be hard to fix. There can be little doubt, however, that the right woman on the Republican national ticket could really help the conservative cause.
CORRECTION: Speaking of rising female Republican politicians, a recent column referred to Kentucky's Sara Beth Gregory of Monticello as a state representative, which she was. But since December Gregory has been a state senator, and a good one. Apologies to her and to readers for the error.
John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is email@example.com.