In an excerpt from their new book Double Down: Game Change 2012, TIME’s Mark Halperin and New York’s John Heilemann look at Mitt Romney’s on-again, off-again flirtation with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to be his running-mate. Codenamed “Pufferfish,” in the aquatic-themed parlance of the campaign’s vetting team, Christie was a constant thorn in the side of the Romney campaign, going back to a 2011 demand that the eventual Republican nominee refrain from fundraising in the Garden State until Christie bestowed his endorsement. The New Jersey Governor’s tardiness to joint fundraising events peeved the punctual candidate, and Christie’s demand for lavish travel arrangements upset Romney’s staff. But Christie’s ability to passionately explain the candidate’s message to donors and voters made him a favorite for the spot, especially with Romney’s chief strategist Stuart Stevens.
The campaign passed over the potential 2016 candidate amid concerns about his ability to stand up to public scrutiny. The authors quote from the campaign’s secret vetting report on Christie, listing the red flags that kept him off the ticket and could keep him out of the White House, should he choose to run in 2016. The report noted that Christie had failed to fully explain a number of issues. These included information on an SEC settlement by the New Jersey governor’s brother, Todd, the terms of a defamation lawsuit settlement signed by Christie, information on Christie’s previous lobbying clients, medical records on his personal health and the citizenship status of Christie’s domestic employees. “If Christie’s possible selection is to move forward, these items should be obtained,” the document read.
The full TIME excerpt from Double Down: Game Change 2012 will be posted Saturday morning on Time.com. Halperin and Heilemann will appear in their first interviews about the book on Monday morning on NBC News’ “Today” and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”