The White House's High School Drama

A new book explores the childish decision-making that took place behind the scenes of both 2012 campaigns.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses a gathering near the beach Wednesday, July, 25, 2012, in Ocean City, N.J., as he continued his tax-cut tour through New Jersey. The governor wants Democrats to commit to funding a 10 percent tax cut in January. Democrats say they want to be sure New Jersey has the money first.

Joe was a loyal friend but maybe not as cool as Hillary, who might keep Barack sitting at the popular kids' table if he switched Joe out for Hillary as his BFF. And Mitt was a clean-cut fitness buff who was never late for class, and he just couldn't deal with Chris, who had some extra pounds and wasn't always prompt.

Welcome to your basic middle school. Or – in this case – the 2012 presidential campaign.

The presidential campaign cost a total of more than $2.3 billion in the last cycle, a portion of it going to pay for the salaries of people who presumably are very smart and know the best strategy to win an election. But if Capitol Hill is high school (bells, recesses, cliques and a formal and informal caste system), the battle for the office of the most powerful elected official in the world is a notch lower, as is well-displayed in a new book, "Double Down."

The book, written by "Game Change" authors Mark Halperin and John Heillemann, says that aides to President Obama considered dropping Vice President Biden from the ticket and replacing him with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Former White House chief of staff Richard Daley has (sort of) denied the claim, saying, "not for a moment was there a serious discussion" of the idea.

That may well be true, but it isn't really a denial that it was discussed at all. And it would have been a foolish move, anyway. Unless the veep is under indictment or otherwise objectively unfit for office, changing running mates just looks desperate, and sends the signal that the president thought his first term (or part of it, anyway) was a mistake.

[Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

Nor would have adding Clinton to the ticket necessarily gotten more votes for the Democrats. Clinton did an impressive job as secretary of state (those who think Benghazi is a huge scandal, instead of a terrible tragedy, aren't voting for Democrats anyway). But even in the 21st century, there is a substantial segment of the population that cannot deal with the idea of a woman being in charge. We already have seen that there is a substantial portion of the electorate that can't deal with having an African-American in charge. Putting both on the ticket doesn't marry their strengths; it joins their (electoral) weaknesses. If Clinton indeed runs in 2016, she'll be a strong candidate. But we may see a level of misogyny that will make the racial backlash against Obama look like nothing.

And the Romney camp, according to the book, treated the search for a vice president like it was a Dr. Seuss narrative, assigning nicknames to potential running mates in "Project Goldfish," as the search was called. Ultimate winner Paul Ryan was "Fishconsin;" Marco Rubio was "Pescado" (the Spanish word for fish); Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty was"Lakefish;" Ohioan Rob Portman got "Filet-o-Fish," and, most insultingly, the big-boned Chris Christie was dubbed "Blowfish." You can see why Ryan was the ultimate pick. Why would any of the others agree to team up with Romney after being so described?

Romney, according to the book, could not deal with Christie's weight problem. Never mind that Christie has an everyman (and woman) appeal that could have won over voters put off by Romney's image as a wealthy man insulated from the struggles of middle-class Americans. Never mind that Christie put party politics aside to – gasp! – thank Obama for his help after Superstorm Sandy. Romney just couldn't get past what he saw as Christie's lack of physical fitness. Watching the New Jersey governor walk without a suit jacket on, Romney said "look at that!" to his staff, the book says. Perhaps that was why Christie wasn't asked to be on the ticket. Or maybe he failed to say hi to Romney in the hall after math class.

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