Second Time Around, Christie Takes Humbled Approach to VP Speculation

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is in familiar territory as Donald Trump narrows in on him as a potential finalist to become the GOP's vice presidential nominee. And though Christie is acquainted with the vetting process from four years ago, his approach to navigating the VP speculation, as well as the outlook of his own political future, has shifted dramatically.

In 2012, Christie was the Republican Party's fastest rising star and one of the Romney campaign’s top surrogates. He endorsed the Massachusetts governor shortly after deciding against his own presidential run and quickly became a valued asset for the campaign and potential running mate. But accompanying Christie's surrogate work were lavish travel requests, healthy amounts of self promotion, and months of dancing around VP questions by citing his disinterest in playing second fiddle.

Romney ultimately chose Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, but rewarded Christie with the coveted keynote address at the GOP Convention in Tampa, Fla. Christie spoke for 16 minutes before uttering Romney's name.

Now, carrying the humility that comes with a failed presidential run, the difficulty that accompanies supporting Trump and the expectation that he will join the private sector once his term ends next year, Christie has taken a different tact to the VP selection process. So different, in fact, that the brash executive has had to deny being Trump's "sidekick."

Christie Joins Trump in Virginia as Trump's VP Decision Nears 2:13

A notable difference from 2012 is that Christie no longer cites his own outspoken style of leadership as a potentially disqualifying factor.

“I think certain personalities are suited for jobs better than others. And I don't know that I'm the guy to stand behind, three feet behind somebody and nod my head,” Christie said during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet The Press” in January 2012. “It's not necessarily in my character.”

But that’s exactly where Christie was in March as Trump celebrated a string of Super Tuesday victories. His pained expression while standing over Trump’s right shoulder prompted the #FreeChrisChristie hashtag, and Christie even clarified in a press conference that he was there on his own free will.

Image: Donald Trump in Palm Beach, Florida, USA
Chris Christie's look here during a Donald Trump press conference in March spurred the hashtag #FreeChrisChristie on social media. RYAN STONE / EPA

And this time around, Christie does not publicly say much about becoming a vice president. His surrogate work has cooled after strong backlash, some even from within his own party, over his attention to the GOP’s polarizing presumptive presidential nominee in the midst of pressing issues facing New Jersey.

An appearance with Trump in Virginia on Monday was likely the last stop the two will make together before the real estate mogul makes his VP pick.

Gov. Christie Defends Trump Endorsement 2:52

Last presidential cycle, Christie earned Romney’s gratitude when he backed the former Massachusetts governor early on in the Republican primary battle. The endorsement came shortly after Christie announced he would not run after being courted by major Republican donors and power brokers.

He hit the campaign trail for Romney, often with a list of requests that far exceeded those of other surrogates traveling on behalf of the campaign, including, according to Romney aides, private planes.

“Christie walked with the swagger of a future nominee even though he was a surrogate,” former Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said.

But since grimacing behind Trump during the March press conference, Christie has been mocked in the media for seeming more like an eager contest trying to win “The Apprentice” than a respected political adviser for Trump.

Christie’s staff has had to deny a report that the governor fetched Trump’s order at McDonald’s, and Christie himself faced questions about why he did not get an umbrella while standing next to the real estate mogul during a gloomy day on the campaign trail. (Christie said he’s never been an umbrella guy.)

“No, I don’t feel like a sidekick. You know, I’m an endorser of someone for president of the United States," Christie told reporters after campaigning with Trump following his endorsement. "And if that makes you a sidekick in your world, that’s OK by me. But that’s not what I would see myself as.”