Our Wednesday, Nov. 6 hour focused on a wide range of topics, but mostly, we just doubled down with authors and political analysts Mark Halperin and John Heilemann as they discussed their new book, “Double Down: Game Change 2012.” It’s a big, brassy read that focuses on the inside story of the 2012 presidential election, and collects all the stories that didn’t get aired in the run up to President Barack Obama’s re-election victory against former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney.
The book also provides a helper filter through which to parse this Tuesday’s elections around the country, and gives an eye toward the looming 2016 presidential race as it discusses newly-re-elected New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, now widely seen a frontrunner in the Republican nomination game for the next political go-round in three years.
Halperin saw the 2013 gubernatorial elections in Virginia in and New Jersey as an endorsement of the political center.
The more centrist candidates won, people who make a big point in talking about working across the aisle.
Governor Christie takes a victory, about 60 percent of the vote, very large percentage of the vote from groups that Republicans have not been doing well with and positions himself to be even more so one of the leading possible candidates for president in 2016.
As Christie hit up the big tallies in broad demographic categories, including women, African Americans and the young, Halperin saw much to look forward to in a potential Christie candidacy in 2016.
Clearly, over-performing what Mitt Romney did, what most Republicans have done in most parts of the country of late. And that alone, along with some of his rhetoric and his formidable political skills puts himself in the position, as I’ve said, to be considered a big potential candidate for 2016 on the presidential side of the Republicans.
In the shadow of Christie’s victory, Halperin saw traces of what the ‘white hot spotlight’ of the presidential trail could mean for the hard-charging Republican governor. Once considered to be a top candidate for Gov. Romeny’s Vice Presidential nod, Christie faded out of the spotlight in the summer of 2012.
Governor Romney had reservations about some of they things that his advisers turned up in the materials they got from Governor Christie and some of the public record. They were also a little concerned because Governor Christie was late in handing over some materials whereas the other people under consideration handed things over promptly. There were some red flags so Governor Romney took Governor Christie off the list.
But then one of his advisers, Stuart Stevens, who was kind of his chief political aide, said in the end of June, ‘You know we need a street fighter, this campaign is not going well,’ right around the Fourth of July holiday. ‘We need somebody who can get in the media, be a street fighter and really take it to Barack Obama and that’s Chris Christie’ so Governor Romney told his advisers, ‘You know what, we need to go back in and look at the record on Chris Christie.
And what they found was, as Governor Romney said, was mostly things that are part of the public record, and one of Governor Romney’s aides made that point to him during this process and said, you know, this guy’s been looked at in New Jersey, and Governor Romney said correctly, ‘There’s a big difference. No mater what state you run in, no matter how big a deal it is. If you run for president or you get put on the ticket the scrutiny is gonna be much, much higher and things are gonna look different and things are gonna come out that are different.
You think about Bill Clinton and White Water, you think about George Bush and his drunk driving arrest. There’s just things that come out even if you run in a bigger, politically competitive state. So you had Governor Romney, then faced with the decision — could he go forward with Chris Christie?
It was not so much any one smoking gun of things they found or questions that were unanswered it was the totality of all the things and Governor Romney reached the decision, ‘Well I’d don’t want a distraction, I wanna pick a running mate who keeps the spotlight on me and doesn’t create controversy,’ that’s why he didn’t pick ‘em, the day after he got the vetting report with all these red flags in it he said no Chris Christie and he moved on to Pual Ryan.
The implications moving forward are pretty clear. Because now the public knows some of the red flags involving his personal finances, his work as a lobbyist, about his medical background and history all these things are gonna be scrutinized now as they shoud lbe
And the questions are gonna be for Governor Christie, if he runs for president two-fold: How does he handle the investigation into his background and what are the underlying facts? And they were troubling enough for Governor Romney that he didn’t want him on the ticket. That doesn’t mean that any of these things are going to keep him from being elected president, but they certainly are red flags.
Heilmann detailed the so-called ‘red flags’ that prevented Christie from joining the Romney ticket.
Some of the stuff is in the public record. There’s a long list of things, the cumulative weight of these things. For a period of time, Governor Christie was a lobbyist working on behalf of the Securities Industry Association of America when it was lobbying to keep financial fraud out of, exempted from New Jersey state consumer protection law. At the time that he was a lobbyist for that group, the group was headed by Bernie Madoff. For Governor Romney’s vetters who looked at that, they said, ‘This is a 30 second attack ad waiting to happen.’
There were also a series of things related to Governor Christie’s brother who had a settlement with the SEC in a civil matter that he was not totally forthcoming with. And when the vetters asked Governor Christie for more details about that he did not provide them with what they thought of as adequate information. They asked him for more details about his health records, Governor Christie didn’t provide what they thought of as adequate information about his health background, about his household help, and about his other lobbying clients.
Those were a series of things that not things in the public record but were things…that they had questions about, and when Governor Christie was not as forthcoming with as they expected him to be and as every one of the members of the short list for VP consideration were, their attitude was, Beth Myers , the woman who ran Governor Romney’s vice presidential vetting team, her attitude was she told her team,
‘If he’s not answering questions, we should assume that the answers are bad.’
What will the revelations in “Double Down” really mean for Gov. Christie and the rest of the potential 2016 field? It’s too soon to tell, but there’s still plenty of time to parse through all the gossip and political intrigue before the next set of primary battles begin in January 2016.