Four years ago, after Sarah Palin became the Republicans’ vice presidential nominee, John McCain aides leaked the internal deliberations before the election: McCain wanted to pick Joe Lieberman, but backed off when the party’s far-right base deemed the Connecticut senator unacceptable.
This year, Mitt Romney aides are following a similar path, leaking word that Paul Ryan was not the top choice for the GOP ticket.
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.
The Politico piece is filled with quotes from unnamed campaign insiders about how much Christie would have added to the ticket: “People involved in the selection process said the campaign believed there was no one who would be more adept and persuasive at delivering Romney’s message. Advisers thought Christie would excel at retail campaigning among working-class voters.”
The piece went on to say Romney and Christie shared “long cell phone calls on the road”; Romney liked “Christie’s fearless advice”; and the New Jersey governor became “one of the campaign’s most popular surrogates.”
So what happened?
Some aides around Romney began to sour on Christie when he was late to a couple of events where they were appearing together. “Chris is a sort of cavalier New York, New Jersey guy: ‘If I’m a few minutes behind, I’ll blame it on traffic,’” said a person who knows him well. “That’s just who he is.”
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. In blunt language that Christie can appreciate, another official said: “The explosiveness had some risk.”
Why Team Romney would decide to leak all of this the weekend before the election is a bit of a mystery, but it doesn’t exactly scream confidence when aides quietly tell reporters the candidate wanted a different running mate from the start.