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Book: Obama Team Eyed Dumping Biden for Hillary in 2012

Image: Book: Obama Team Eyed Dumping Biden for Hillary in 2012

By Cathy Burke   |   Thursday, 31 Oct 2013 09:43 PM

President Barack Obama's top aides secretly considered replacing Vice President Joe Biden with Hillary Clinton on the 2012 ticket, but decided she wouldn't boost the president's odds, a new book claims.

The New York Times, which obtained an advance copy of  "Double Down,"  by reporters Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, reported that the idea to replace Vice President Joe Biden with the ex-first lady went through focus-group sessions and polling in late 2011 when Obama's re-election outlook appeared uncertain.

The idea of replacing Biden with Clinton had long been rumored, but the book details the effort inside the senior circle of Obama advisers, according to the Times.

Editor's Note: 22 Hidden Taxes and Fees Set to Hit You With Obamacare. Read the Guide to Protect Yourself.

"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 in their sequel to "Game Change," a best-selling account of the 2008 race that helped revive interest in campaign books and was made into an Emmy Award-winning television movie by HBO.

"Biden had dodged a bullet he never saw coming — and never would know anything about, if the Obamans could keep a secret," the book says.

Ironically, the idea was pushed by William Daley, Obama's then chief of staff who was close to Biden.

Daley told the Times it was "due diligence" to research what the move would mean for Obama, whose popularity, in the fall of 2011, was at its lowest in his presidency to date.

"I was vocal about looking into a whole bunch of things, and this was one of them," he said. "You have to remember, at that point the president was in awful shape, so we were like, 'Holy Christ, what do we do?'"

The book highlights the backstage maneuvering and fighting in the 2012 race against Mitt Romney — and portrays Obama as detached from much of the day-to-day work of politics, and wanting to be a more unapologetically liberal president, the Times reports.

Biden, considered a possible 2016 White House candidate, is viewed warily by Obama's circle not just for being a gaffe-prone "Uncle Joe," but also for supposedly being overly consumed with his own political future, according to the book.

And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another potential presidential candidate, is described as having been eliminated from vice-presidential contention by Romney because of unanswered questions about his background and health.

According to the book, Romney included Christie on his vice-presidential shortlist, crossed him off, reconsidered him, and then ultimately decided he couldn't pick the governor.

Romney made the decision not only because of the fund-raising restrictions Christie would face as the governor of New Jersey, but also because Christie didn't give the same amount of information to Romney's team of vetters as the other picks, according to the book.

A memo on Christie from the vetting team said it had unanswered questions on a defamation lawsuit against the governor from earlier in his political career; on a Securities and Exchange Commission settlement involving Christie's brother; on names and documentation of his household help; on information from his time as a securities industry lobbyist; and on his medical history, according to the book.

"The dossier on the Garden State governor's background was littered with potential land mines," the authors write.

"Governor Christie complied fully with the Romney campaign's request for documents in a timely manner, including a complete medical report from his internist and cardiologist," his office told the Times.

But at the heart of the book are the same two families that loomed over the 2008 race: the Obamas and the Clintons.

Even after Obama named Clinton secretary of state after their hard-fought 2008 primary campaign, the book says the president could barely endure spending much time with Bill Clinton, according to the Times.

The book relates that when the two men golfed together in September 2011 — an effort aides hoped would bring them closer — they didn't even finish 18 holes.

Speaking to an aide afterward, "Obama grimaced and replied, 'I like him … in doses,' " the Times quotes the book saying.

Editor's Note: 22 Hidden Taxes and Fees Set to Hit You With Obamacare. Read the Guide to Protect Yourself.

Ultimately, though, Obama came to rely on Clinton both as a surrogate and as a private counselor, according to the book, noting Obama huddled with Clinton just days after the president's disastrous performance in the first debate with Romney.

But even as Obama and Clinton drew closer, the president's bond with Biden was tested, the book relates, noting Biden had to apologize for trying to set up some politically advantageous meetings on an Obama fundraising mission.

Biden was then excluded from strategy meetings.

In other revelations, the book reveals the source who told Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, that Romney had not paid any taxes in 10 years: Jon Huntsman Sr., the father of Romney's early rival in the Republican primaries.

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