|Click here to check out all our other stories from the Convention|
TAMPA, Fla. — Condoleezza Rice electrified the Republican National Convention on Wednesday with at speech that fueled speculation that she might again accept a Cabinet position in Republican White House — or make a run herself in 2016.
Delivering remarks that resulted in three standing ovations, the former Secretary of State began by evoking Sept. 11, 2001, the 2008 financial crisis and the recent upheaval in the Middle East.
"Yet, the promise of the Arab Spring is engulfed in uncertainty," she said. "Internal strife and hostile neighbors are challenging the fragile democracy in Iraq; dictators in Iran Syria butcher their own people and threaten the security of the region; China and Russia prevent a response; and all wonder, 'Where does America stand?'" Although she did not President Barack Obama by name, the thousands of cheering delegates at the Tampa Bay Times Forum knew precisely to whom she was referring when she declared that America "cannot be reluctant to lead — and one cannot lead from behind."
Another jab at the president came moments later when Rice said, "Our friends and allies must be able to trust us. From Israel to Poland to the Philippines to Columbia and across the world — they must know what we are reliable and consistent and determined."
Rice's speech differed from the one delivered later Wednesday evening by Rep. Paul Ryan, who said the word "Obama" 23 times.
While Ryan's remarks were a full-throated assault on the Obama administration, Rice focused on foreign policy and told the personal story that she alone can tell.
"After all," she said, "when the world looks to America, they look to us because we are the most successful political and economic experiment in human history. That is the true basis of American exceptionalism."
After suggesting that "the American ideal is indeed endangered today" and that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are better qualified than the Obama administration to protect it, she said: "And on a personal note: A little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham — the most segregated big city in America," she said. "Her parents can't take her to a movie theater or a restaurant — but they can make her believe that even though she can't have a hamburger at the Woolworth's lunch counter, she can be President of the United States — and she becomes the Secretary of State."
The subsequent applause was as thunderous as any that has filled the arena since the abbreviated convention began Tuesday afternoon.
In an interview on "Fox & Friends" earlier Wednesday, Rice said: "I want Mitt Romney to be elected president. That's why I'm here, that's why I'm trying to help, but I am a very happy Stanford professor and I intend to be one for the near future."
Such an ambiguous statement, along with the accolades that her Wednesday-night speech has received, seems unlikely to quell any speculation about Rices's future in government and politics.