Chris Christie: The running mate who wasn't
|Sorry, Chris, you're a bit too loud, and a bit too obnoxious, and a bit too much of a loose cannon, and not enough of an ideologue to placate hardcore conservatives...|
Politico is reporting today that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was Romney's top choice to be his running mate. This according to "campaign insiders":
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.
This isn't surprising at all. Richard and I both thought a) it would be Christie, and b) that Christie was the best pick for Romney (from Romney's perspective -- we obviously would have preferred it if he'd gone with, say, Donald Trump). Consider the title of a post Richard wrote back in June:
Here was the thinking:
In a sense, it would be both a game changer and a safe call.
We reasoned that Romney should make the announcement the usual time, about a week before the convention. By then the polls will have been so close for so long that conservatives everywhere will be salivating at the thought of beating Obama, so they won't make trouble about the fact that Christie is another Northeastern governor who isn't perfect from a radical right-wing perspective. The base will stay in line and swing voters, particularly white middle-aged guys, will love the choice.
In many ways, Christie is everything Romney is not. He comes across as genuine, a natural performer. He's combative as hell and would be able to do what Romney will never be able to do: act tough. Conservatives want that more than anything.
I'm no great fan of Christie myself, but I do think he would be a formidable running mate and would make things close.
And then the title of a post I wrote in August, just before the pick was announced:
Yes, he's been out of the national spotlight recently, but that just means his re-emergence would be all the more dramatic. (And you know this whole Veepstakes thing is calculated for effect.) And he and Romney genuinely seem to like each other. They're very different, but they seem to have some sort of yin and yang thing going, Romney the privileged rich douchebag, Christie the aggressive, fast-talking bully who does the douchebag's dirty work.Christie isn't necessarily a right-wing ideologue of the kind desired by conservatives, but he's a fighter who would take the fight directly to President Obama. Conservatives would love that. It would fulfill, at least during the heat of the campaign, their wild fantasies about this anti-American foreign interloper being taken down by force, being given the drubbing/lynching he deserves.There wouldn't any yawn.Picture Romney walking out on stage with Christie. Think of Christie's forceful personality. Think of his aggressive speech. Think of Romney standing there like a doofus with an ear-to-ear grin. Think of Republicans everywhere wetting themselves.Makes perfect sense, no?
It did. As our contributor tmcbpatriot also wrote at the time: "I'm going with Christie still. He was the golden boy early on. Everybody wanted him and now there is less than three months to vet him publicly. He is crass and has no respect for anyone, much less his own body. Republicans love that sort of thing and he balances out Romney's elite factor with his New Jersey trash talk and attitude. Plus, Christie appeals to the moron independents. Ryan is too extreme for them. Honestly, nobody can reach the independents except Christie."
So why wasn't it Christie? Early reports said it was because he refused to step down as governor (and because, in a related matter, this would have blocked large donations from the financial sector to the Romney campaign).
But now we're getting different reasons. From the Politico piece:
--"Some aides around Romney began to sour on Christie when he was late to a couple of events where they were appearing together... The tardiness rankled the by-the-book folks around Romney."
-- "Some Romney loyalists thought he was too much about himself."
-- "Advisers also fretted about the raw emotion that makes Christie so popular on TV and on the trail, fearing it might be a liability in the West Wing."
Apparently "Romney was willing to overlook those reservations," but then "the intense back-and-forth suddenly halted." And then Paul Ryan was picked.
It may well be that Christie said no to stepping down in Trenton, and that would make sense. He must have reasoned that Romney was facing an uphill battle and that victory was a longshot. And Christie is nothing if not devoted to New Jersey. Why give up the top job there to be Romney's sidekick in what could be a losing effort? Even with his sights set on running himself down the road, perhaps in 2016 should Romney lose, what good would it be to him to be out of office for any such run?
As for these new reasons, they seem like complete bullshit to me, though it's certainly true that Christie isn't the sort of person you can easily picture as a #2.
No, I suspect the real reason is that Romney needed to win over conservatives who by that point in the campaign were publicly expressing some serious misgivings about his credentials and demanding that he put a hardcore conservative on the ticket. Names like Marco Rubio were being pushed, but it was Ryan who was the right's dream pick. Here's more from my post from August:
"Romney Faces Pressure From Right to Put Ryan on Ticket," says the Times."Why not Paul Ryan?" asks the Journal...Ezra Klein asks why conservatives want Ryan. And looks at why Romney may want him as well -- to take a necessary risk, to run on "big ideas," to pander to the right (as usual), and "to diffuse the blame if he loses.