Report: Christie Was Romney’s First Choice For VP
Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei are out with a report at Politico that Mitt Romney came much closer to picking Chris Christie as his running mate than previously believed:
One of the most tantalizing subplots of the 2012 campaign has been the curious and sometimes controversial performances of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Now, campaign insiders tell POLITICO that Christie was Mitt Romney’s first choice for the Republican ticket, lending an intriguing new context to the continuing drama around the Garden State governor.
The strong internal push for Christie, and Romney’s initial instinct to pick him as his running mate, reflects how conflicted the nominee remained about choosing a running mate until the very end of the process. At least on the surface, Christie and Paul Ryan are about as opposite as two Republicans could be: a brash outsider from the Northeast versus a bookish insider from the heartland.
And yet Romney switched from Christie to Ryan in a span of about two weeks, according to a detailed inside account provided to POLITICO.
Romney was so close to picking Christie that some top advisers at the campaign’s Boston headquarters believed the governor had been offered the job. The campaign made tentative plans to announce a pick in late July, just before Romney headed off on his overseas trip, starting with a stop at the London Olympics.
“Mitt liked him because he saw him as a street fighter,” a Romney official said. “It’s the kind of political mentality that Romney doesn’t have, but admires. He wanted someone who could play the Chicago game [like Obama headquarters] on its own terms.”
In fact, Christie was never the final choice. Romney hit “pause” on the possibility shortly before his trip to the Olympics. Then he settled on Ryan the day after returning. Romney formally offered him the job within a week, leaving Christie hanging until shortly before the official announcement a week later.
Some Christie supporters were irritated to discover that the House budget chairman had been picked so long before the New Jersey governor had been told, meaning that he and other also-rans had remained as decoys. These supporters said at the time that Christie deserved more of a heads -up after being led on so strongly.
These rumors have surfaced before. On the eve of the Republican National Convention, it was reported that the Romney campaign had asked Christie to resign as Governor if he were going to be picked as the running mate, a request he refused. In retrospect, of course, selecting Christie otherwise would have created a very interesting dynamic in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, with a major party running mate facing the choice between completely dropping off the campaign trail and being completely thrashed by the national and local media for not doing so. In that respect, not being picked may have been the best thing to happen to Christie, especially if Romney ends up losing. It now appears that this report was leaked to the Post by someone close to Christie, and the Politico piece raises the possibility of some bad blood between the Romney and Christie camps, if not the men themselves:
Instead, the prize went to Ryan, leaving some bitterness in Christie’s camp about how the delicate courting process had ended.
These ruffled feathers got a public airing on the first day of the Republican National Convention in Tampa. With Christie as the convention’s keynote speaker, the front page of the New York Post blared that he had turned Romney down.
“Revealed: the secret reason Chris would not run for VP,” the cover said. The inside article reported that Christie “wasn’t willing to give up the New Jersey statehouse to be Mitt Romney’s running mate because he doubted they’d win.”
Christie fell further from favor in Romney’s inner circle when his convention speech, which campaign officials had approved, dwelled more on the Chris Christie story than on the Mitt Romney story.
“His view was, ‘They saw the speech before I gave it. They vetted it. They said it was fine,'” recalled a Romney adviser. “And the campaign’s view was, ‘We told him that we thought there were more opportunities for him to put in stuff about Mitt, and he didn’t take the hint.’ There was a lot of agitation that led to a lot of sarcasm and the kind of comments that people don’t mean, but they kind of do.”
The differences were papered over. Now, some Romney friends and donors are irked by Christie’s embrace of Obama this week, which one referred to as “over the top.”
“If Romney wins, it won’t be forgotten,” the adviser said. “If Romney loses, it doesn’t matter.”
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Chris Christie said this week that he “doesn’t give a damn” about the Presidential election.