Representative Cathy McMorris-Rodgers is one of Capitol Hill’s better-known faces. She’s vice chairman of the House Republican conference and an ally of Speaker John Boehner. She’s also gaining notice on the airwaves. On Sunday, for example, she appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, where she sparred with Rachel Maddow and Hilary Rosen.
Outside of the Beltway and her Spokane-area district, McMorris-Rodgers remains, for the most part, a political unknown. But that hasn’t stopped a handful of Republican insiders from citing her as a dark-horse veep contender. “The attention is not surprising,” says GOP consultant Ford O’Connell. “She’s been doing excellent work, speaking on behalf of Romney. But a lot of people would have to fail to meet the mark before she gets the call.”
Other Republican sources generally agree with O’Connell: McMorris-Rodgers is considered a rising star, but she is far from a likely selection.
In an interview with National Review Online, the four-term Republican acknowledged that she’s open to the idea, but took care to note that she is not “seeking” the nod. Romney, she says, should simply pick a conservative running mate — and if it’s a woman, all the better.
“Republican women bring an important voice to the table,” McMorris-Rodgers says. “The big issues that face this country right now — the economy, jobs, the debt, and health care — are on the forefront of people’s minds, and especially on women’s minds.”
#more#The highest-ranking woman in the House, the 42-year-old congresswoman has tea-party appeal: She’s pro-life, she voted against the bank bailouts, and she’s a longtime backer of a balanced-budget amendment. She also grew up on a farm, married a veteran, and has two children, including a son, Cole, who has Down Syndrome.
But, since insiders consider her a long shot, why would Romney, running partly on competence and executive experience, reach down into the House to make a little-known congresswoman with whom he has little connection his running mate? The question of experience, McMorris-Rodgers concedes, is “certainly a consideration” for Romney, but she doesn’t think it should rule any particular House member out.
“There are different advantages and disadvantages to all of these experiences,” she says. “It’s certainly advantage to have built relationships” in Congress, and she cites her work with Senate GOP leaders at policy-planning meetings as an example of how House members can build broad portfolios.
“I’m just excited that there are dynamic conservative women” rising in the party, McMorris-Rodgers says. She mentions Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Governor Mary Fallin of Oklahoma as two leaders with whom she has close working relationships. She also expects freshman Republican women in the House, especially, to make their voices heard this fall as Romney surrogates. “They want to be helpful,” she says, “especially as the Democrats try to distract the country.”