Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has emerged as a front-runner for Mitt Romney's vice presidential nomination, according to a report Thursday by the Drudge Report.
The news came as the Romney campaign confirmed for the first time that a choice would be made before the Republican National Convention.
The report from Drudge — which says the decision will be made in the "coming weeks" — carries particular weight because of the widely reported personal connection between Rhoades and Matt Drudge, whose eponymous website is a dominant force in online journalism.
Speculation about Rice as a potential vice presidential candidate has grown ever since the former Bush administration official delivered a widely praised speech at a Romney donor retreat in June. Discussing the speech during an interview later in the month, Rice told CBS News that she believed it resonated because of her discussion of the American spirit.
"I talked about the need for American leadership; I talked about the importance of the United States to a more peaceful world, a world that has been quite turbulent in recent years and needs a strong American anchor," Rice said. "But I also talked about the essence of America, and perhaps that's what people resonated with."
But during that same interview, Rice downplayed speculation that she would be chosen as Romney's running mate.
"I didn't run for student council president. I don't see myself in any way in elective office," Rice told "CBS This Morning" on Tuesday.
The former Secretary of State said the Republican candidate had a "deep bench" of more willing candidates to choose from.
"I'm saying there is no way I will do this, because it's really not me, I know my strengths. Gov. Romney needs to find someone who wants to run with him," Rice said. "There are many people who will do it very, very well, and I'll support the ticket."
When "CBS This Morning" host Charlie Rose pressed Rice, noting she hadn't technically said she wouldn't accept the offer to be vice president, she was more definitive.
"It's not going to happen — and no," she said.
As for Romney, the presidential candidate has been tight-lipped about the vice presidential vetting process. During a town hall event in Colorado earlier this week, a supporter asked Romney if he'd be making his choice "before or after" the convention.
"Yes," Romney quipped, drawing laughs from the crowd.
Romney provided little insight beyond that, telling supporters at the Colorado event he couldn't provide more of a timeline on his vice presidential selection.
Instead, the Republican hopeful simply pledged that "the person I choose, you will look at and say, 'that person could be president if necessary.'"
Who that person could be remains the subject of intense speculation.