According to excerpts from the book Double Down, Mitt Romney seriously considered choosing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as his 2012 running mate. But he didn't, in part because Christie is overweight. Cool leadership, Mitt.
The Washington Post got an early copy of the book, and notes several not-very-subtle ways in which the Romney camp made an issue of Christie's weight. For example, according to the Post, Romney's VP vetters engaged in the age-old tradition of blowing their work way out of proportion by pretending it was a high-level intelligence operation. But, man, did they do a lame job of it.
“Project Goldfish,” as his vetting team called its operation, was so secretive that researchers referred to the five finalists by aquatic names — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (Pufferfish), former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty (Lakefish), Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio (Filet-O-Fish), Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida (Pescado) and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin (Fishconsin).
Yeah, great code names, guys. First of all: "Fishconsin" is not a fish. It is barely a code name. Why not "Paulfish?" Second of all, naming the Latino candidate "Pescado" seems … iffy. And, third: poor ol' Pufferfish. Do you get it; Christie is heavy. If any random American voter had overheard the vetting team using those code names at a Shoney's last June, they would have guessed at least two of those three.
But that's hardly the worst of it. The Post blames three things for Romney crossing Pufferfish off his list: his incomplete vetting file, his tendency to be late to events, and his puffiness.
“Romney marveled at Christie’s girth, his difficulties in making his way down the narrow aisle of the campaign bus,” the authors write. “Watching a video of Christie without his suit jacket on, Romney cackled to his aides, ‘Guys! Look at that!’”
As a reminder, the person Romney eventually chose was workout-obsessed Fishconsin. In 2011, Paul Ryan posed for these photos for Time magazine's 2011 "Person of the Year" issue. This is how he allowed himself to be depicted, perhaps recognizing that it would help his VP chances.
Christie got fed up with his treatment by the Romney team. "I'm tired of you people!" he reportedly said to the campaign after his speech at the Republican convention. "Leave me the [unidentified swear word that probably starts with 'f'] alone!"
But he might get an even better revenge. In February, Christie underwent lap-band surgery in an attempt to lose weight. So what we might see in 2016 is the ultimate underdog / bullied-kid-makes-good story. A newly svelte and self-confident Chris Christie romps through primary states and eventually stands triumphant on Election Night. Where the bully Romney failed, Christie could succeed. And if he does, he should vet Romney as VP just to give him a codename. We can think of several.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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