We're a little less than a week away from the official release of Double Down, expected to be a near-exhaustive tick-tock of the 2012 presidential campaign from the guys who brought us Game Change—but fortunately we don't have to wait any longer for some of the juiciest behind-the-scenes details. The New York Times' Jonathan Martin managed to finagle an advanced (but apparently not embargoed) copy, and spills some of the secrets Thursday night. Here's the big news that will have the Beltway talking on Friday:
President Obama’s top aides secretly considered replacing Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. with Hillary Rodham Clinton on the 2012 ticket, undertaking extensive focus-group sessions and polling in late 2011 when Mr. Obama’s re-election outlook appeared uncertain.
The aides concluded that despite Mrs. Clinton’s popularity, the move would not offer a significant enough political boost to Mr. Obama to justify such a radical move, according to a newly published account of the 2012 race. ... It was pushed by the chief of staff at the time, William M. Daley, despite the close personal rapport Mr. Daley had developed with Mr. Biden, a fellow Irish Catholic and veteran of Washington politics.
"When the research came back near the end of the year, it suggested that adding Clinton to the ticket wouldn’t materially improve Obama’s odds," the authors write .... "Biden had dodged a bullet he never saw coming — and never would know anything about, if the Obamans could keep a secret."
During the early days of the campaign there had been plenty of chatter about the possibility of the switch, but such rumors were brushed aside by the Obama campaign and most Beltway watchers treated the idea largely as a counterfactual parlor game. Based on what we know now, though, the What If was playing out inside Obama's inner circle as well (although, I should note, there's nothing in the NYT report to suggest that either Obama or Hillary were part of such conversations).
While it's still unclear just how seriously the president's team considered the move, it's rather telling that Daley isn't denying the report. He told the Times on Thursday that it was indeed something that he was "vocal about" considering as part of the campaign's "due diligence," adding: "You have to remember, at that point the president was in awful shape, so we were like, ‘Holy Christ, what do we do?′ "
There's a lot more of note in the NYT's Double Down sneak peek, including more color about how Mitt Romney waffled about whether to tap Chris Christie for the VP slot on the GOP ticket before ultimately rejecting the idea because the New Jersey governor apparently failed to be as forthcoming with Romney's team of vetters as the some of the other candidates. There's also plenty of info on President Obama and Bill Clinton's often-uncomfortable relationship. Head on over to the Times for more.