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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.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Janis Gore says:

    This guy and I have a lot in common.

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  2. Modulo Myself says:

    Bad luck for the Romney campaign. Ryan turned out to be a total dud, which should have been foreseeable. Meanwhile, after Sandy Christie came off, to someone who can’t stand his politics, as better than both Cuomo and Bloomberg. I’m not sure how much that would have helped the campaign overall, but it would have been better than Ryan.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  3. Janis Gore says:

    Cuomo seems to be staying on top of things in NY. At least he appears to be in his press conferences.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  4. Geek, Esq. says:

    Romney decided to dump Christie for the very reason he would have been a huge asset–he’s not scripted or predictable. He’s kind of like Biden–authentic, warts and all. Speaks his mind, even if it’s unflattering (Biden has gaffes, Christie can be an a-hole). He wouldn’t have gotten slapped around in the VP debate like little Eddie did.

    Can you imagine if he had been chosen, btw, given this storm’s occurrence? That would have been a weird dynamic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  5. Tsar Nicholas says:

    This has the smell of a bravo sierra hatchet piece by Team Obama, a/k/a Politico. The unnamed “insider” might be the reporters themselves. Or it could be some Democrat plant that’s close to Christie or on the periphery of Team Romney. It just doesn’t ring true.

    That aside, if Romney loses then Christie almost certainly will run in ’16, unless Cory Booker defeats him for the governorship. Whether Christie could defeat Paul Ryan and the inevitable insane clown posse remains to be seen. Possible. Not necessarily likely.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  6. mantis says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    It just doesn’t ring true.

    Because…?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  7. anjin-san says:

    It’s been interesting watching supposed conservative wunderkind Paul Ryan quickly become a non factor in the race. His biggest moment was a fake photo op.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  8. bk says:

    Anyone who thinks Politico is (and I will use some quotes here from previous comments) “leftist” or “in the tank for Obama” either doesn’t actually read Politico or is a moron. Which one are you, Tsar?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  9. Janis Gore says:

    @anjin-san: Who can like that little snotwad?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. al-Ameda says:

    My opinion of Christie continues to rise.

    Governor Christie, who does not filter his remarks or change his view to suit an audience, certainly knows a phony when he sees one.

    The real question here is: why is Christie a Republican?

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  11. Wr says:

    Because he hates working people and believes that the proper role of government is to fellate the rich.

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  12. @al-Ameda: Based on news reports the reason he is a Republican is because he feels that government (and government employees) need to be held accountable for their performance. Elected Democrats by and large are unable to do much else other than apologize and move on when government misbehaves. Elected Republicans aren’t that much better but nobody can promise (and deliver) perfection in government.

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