April 8, 2008 / 4:21 PM / 11 years ago

Rice leaves door ajar for vice presidential chance

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice smiles during U.S. President George W. Bush and Croatian President Stjepan Mesic's joint dinner in Zagreb April 4, 2008. REUTERS/Nikola Solic

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice left slightly open the chance on Tuesday that she might be interested in running as vice president on Republican White House contender John McCain’s ticket.

Pressed by a reporter, Rice declined to make a strong, direct rejection that she would never be interested in the second spot on the Republican ticket that is almost certain to be led by McCain as the presidential candidate.

Rice chose instead to lavish praise on the Arizona senator, adding that at the end of the Bush administration in January 2009 she planned to go to her home in California where she had served as provost at Stanford University.

“Senator McCain is an extraordinary American, a really outstanding leader and obviously a great patriot,” Rice said at a news conference with the foreign ministers of Mexico and Canada at her side.

“That said, I am going back to Stanford. I am going back to California,” she said, when asked to make a “Shermanesque denial” and rule out talk of any political ambitions.

American Civil War Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman famously said when asked if he was being considered as a possible Republican candidate for the presidential election of 1884: “If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve.”

Rice’s unusual appearance last month at a conservative anti-tax lobbying group meeting fueled talk that she was courting her party for a shot at the No. 2 spot and political blogs have been buzzing in recent days with that possibility.

Rice, who has said many times she does not “do politics,” said she was extremely busy as the top U.S. diplomat, pointing to a handful of phone calls she had made by mid-morning on Tuesday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Pakistan’s new foreign minister and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

“I very much look forward to watching this campaign and voting as a voter,” she said.

Reporting by Sue Pleming and Arshad Mohammed; editing by David Wiessler

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