For the longest time, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was the frontrunner to win the Romney campaign's veepstakes. He was brash, vocal and, most importantly he was Romney's personal favorite choice. But in the end the job eventually went to Paul Ryan instead.
The excerpts from Double Down, the new book from Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, are inescapable this weekend, and the latest in Time is a doozy. The Romney campaign's search for a vice president was one of the most well-documented, chased after stories of the 2012 campaign, and we finally have a detailed account of the process behind Ryan's selection.
The veep vetting operation set up an office in Boston. Beth Myers, a longtime Romeny aide, would run the show with help from a team of background checkers. Secrecy was a top priority. Because of repeated attacks from Chinese hackers, Halperin and Heilemann report, the computers in the veep office weren't hooked up to the internet and the team spoke mostly in code. Two team members, Ted Newton and Chris Oman, came up with the project's official name: Project Goldfish, after their junkfood saturated diet vetting diet. The team whittled candidates down to a shortlist and gave them specific code names:
- Chris Christie = Pufferfish
- Tim Pawlenty = Lakefish
- Rob Portman = Filet o Fish
- Marco Rubio = Pescado
- Paul Ryan = Fishconsin
Yes, the Romney team seriously called Paul Ryan, "Fishconsin." No one accused them of being creative types. As the vetting process continued it became clear Romney's favored choice, the boisterous New Jersey governor, was going to be a problem. New Jersey law put harsh restrictions on fundraising efforts if Christie joined the ticket and didn't resign as governor. When Romney floated the resignation idea to Christie, he swiftly turned it down. On top of that, his is background was littered with unanswered questions that Democrats could use as ammo against his campaign. On top of all that, Christie was fat and routinely late:
Punctuality mattered to Romney. Christie’s lateness bugged him. Mitt also cared about fitness and was prone to poke fun at those who didn’t. (“Oh, there’s your date for tonight,” he would say to male members of his traveling crew when they spied a chunky lady on the street.) Romney marveled at Christie’s girth, his difficulties in making his way down the narrow aisle of the campaign bus. Watching a video of Christie without his suit jacket on, Romney cackled to his aides, “Guys! Look at that!”
Eventually Romney realized that Christie couldn't be his vice president, so he had to go in another direction. In the back of his mind Romney knew all along it would be Ryan. The other candidates didn't stand a chance because Ryan felt like a fellow finance guy:
Mitt meditated on the choice that now seemed inevitable: Ryan. Beyond all the political pros and cons, Romney felt comfortable with Paul. He reminded Mitt of junior partners he used to work with at Bain: eager, earnest, solicitous, smart and not at all threatening. Bob White had a phrase for these buttoned-down go-getters, which he applied to Ryan: “client-ready.”
The rest is history. Ryan debuted aboard the U.S.S. Wisconsin on a Saturday morning, got walloped by Joe Biden in the vice presidential debate, and is now getting his ducks in a row for a possible run at the White House in 2016 -- at the top of the ticket this time, of course.