Saturday, November 3, 2012

Christie as VP: The Fun We Missed

Rumor has it Romney’s first pick for VP was New Jersey Governor ChrisChristie.  Neat how stuff starts to come out as the election gets closer.  Reportedly, Christie didn’t show the discipline the Romney campaign likes to see – showing up late to campaign events.  One can see Christie’s electoral/political appeal.  His brashness and earthiness would have contrasted nicely with the polished and heavily scripted Romney.  A Biden-Christie debate would have been a blast!

It still probably wouldn’t have made much difference, VP choices usually don’t and Ryan was also a solid pick.  Although Ryan does look a lot like a Romney offspring...

It is interesting to think how Hurricane Sandy would have played in the campaign with Christie as vice presidential candidate.  Christie probably would have needed to drop campaigning to manage the disaster that struck his state.  Although this would have been mentioned constantly in the news so it might not have hurt the campaign’s exposure.  If he had appeared effective the storm response might have even helped the campaign.

One of the reasons the story about Christie’s almost being the VP pick came out is because Christie has praised Obama’s aid to NewJersey.  There are rumors of bad blood between Christie and Romney now.

But what if Christie were the VP candidate?  Would he have still praised the federal aid to the state – possibly appearing magnanimous, above politics, and pragmatic?  Would he have criticized it and insisted he and Romney would have done it much better?  The political analysis would have been so much fun (probably irrelevant, but fun.)

Christie as Governing Partner
Following the theme of my work on the vice presidency, I still argue that Christie would not have been a good VP choice.  First, looking at historical data the last two governors to be vice president were disasters – Rockefeller and Agnew.  The former was too big for the job; the latter was too small.  Granted this was four decades ago, but what has really changed?  Governors are captains of their own ship, within their state environment they are the 500 lb. gorilla.  They don’t have to ask someone else if they can travel, give a speech, or how to structure their time.  Given this experience, serving as someone else’s number two does not come easily.

From the President’s viewpoint a governor also is a problematic VP.  The VP slot is a chance to bring an extremely experienced advisor into the White House.  Presidents have no shortage of advisors of course – almost anyone in the world who is an expert on anything would be happy to drop whatever they are doing to brief the President.  But an experienced Senator or House member with high-level knowledge of some issues can not only bring policy background but also knowledge of the people and institutions that Presidents have to deal with - what I've called (stealing a line from F. Scott Fitzgerald) "the whole equation."  Several recent vice presidents were experienced Senators and their Presidents found their counsel on the Senate invaluable.  Some recent vice presidents have brought substantial knowledge of international affairs or military affairs.  On a key issue it isn’t just a matter of identifying the preferred policy, but how to get that policy through Congress or get the appropriate allied nations to buy in.

Chris Christie appears to be a talented politician, but there is little he could tell a President Romney about how to deal with the Senate or the leadership of NATO – he would face the same learning curve as his President and that learning curve is steep.

No comments: