New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was Mitt Romney’s first choice for running mate and was so close to being picked that some Romney advisers actually thought he’d been offered the job, Politico reported Saturday.
According to the report, the Romney campaign had tentatively planned to unveil Christie as the vice presidential pick in late July, just before Romney went off on his overseas trip. Instead, Romney paused just before the trip and decided on Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan the day after he returned. Romney offered Ryan the spot within a week, but Christie wasn’t told he was out until shortly before the Aug. 11 announcement.
Among the reported reasons Christie was set aside were that he was late to a couple of joint appearances with Romney and fears that his trademark brashness could prove a liability in the White House:
The tardiness rankled the by-the-book folks around Romney. As the vice-presidential selection ramped up, Christie was always at the top of the list, but always with an asterisk.
Some Romney loyalists thought he was too much about himself.
“He wouldn’t make a good Number Two,” one adviser said. That is a point that Christie often made himself, when brushing off talk that he would be chosen.
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.”
Romney was willing to overlook those reservations, and people close to the process describe a frenzy of vetting around Christie in mid-July. Then the intense back-and-forth suddenly halted, although Christie supporters in the campaign’s inner circle remained hopeful that he would still be picked after the foreign trip.
“It could still have happened,” said a person involved in the process.
Speculation swirled last year over whether Christie might make his own presidential bid until he definitively took himself out of the race and endorsed Romney. He’s been a vocal supporter of Romney’s and a popular figure on the campaign trail.
However, according to Politico, Christie “fell further from favor in Romney’s inner circle” with his primetime speech at the Republican National Convention, which the campaign felt could have contained more about Romney instead of focusing so heavily on Christie himself.
Christie has been in the national spotlight this week in the wake of the devastation brought to his state by Hurricane Sandy, including a much-publicized tour of the damage with President Barack Obama. Some close to Romney have reportedly been “irked” by the closeness between Christie and Obama.
“If Romney wins, it won’t be forgotten,” an adviser told Politico. “If Romney loses, it doesn’t matter.”