New book offers flurry of juicy US campaign gossip

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House denied on Friday that President Barack Obama considered ditching Vice President Joe Biden for Hillary Clinton, as reported in a new book brimming with gossip from the 2012 reelection run.

"Double Down" by journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann is a follow-up to the bestselling "Game Change", which charted Mr Obama's 2008 victory and the rise and fall of Sarah Palin. It was made into an HBO movie.

According to leaks from the book in US media, Mr Obama's campaign chieftains ran polls in 2011 to see whether secretary of state Ms Clinton would boost Mr Obama's then flagging political fortunes on the ticket.

The book reported that the idea was abandoned when staffers found that it would not "materially improve" Mr Obama's chances.

But White House spokesman Jay Carney said that the switch was never a real consideration, even though the White House chief of staff at the time, Bill Daley, was involved in the plan.

"I know for a fact that President Obama never considered this, never thought about it, never entertained it," Mr Carney told CNN.

"The vice president has been a partner of his from the 2008 campaign on, an excellent governing partner and excellent campaign partner," Mr Carney said, noting that political campaign polls test every possible scenario.

Even had Mr Obama chosen Mr Clinton to join him as vice presidential nominee, it seems unlikely she would have accepted.

His former rival made clear she would only serve one term as secretary of state, and had no interest in being vice president.

The new revelations come as Mr Clinton remains a hot favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and Mr Biden considers his own possible run.

The book also includes tantalising details of the early tension between Mr Obama and former president Bill Clinton, the ex-secretary of state's husband.

After one golf game, which did not even last the regulation eighteen holes, Mr Obama reportedly told an aide "I like him... in doses." The two presidents had little communication in their first year in office, Mr Halperin and Mr Heilemann reported.

But as his re-election neared, Mr Obama listened to political advice from Bill Clinton, one of the most gifted campaigners in recent American political history, and the former president eventually emerged as the most important public supporter of the current US leader.

The book also reveals tensions on the Republican side, according to reports carried by The Washington Post and The New York Times, notably between Republican candidate Mitt Romney and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who at one stage was seen as a possible vice presidential nominee.

Mr Romney had questions about Christie's weight - he recently underwent lap-band weight loss surgery - and the fact that he showed up late to meetings.

The Romney campaign was also irked by Christie's speech at the Republican National Convention that dwelt more on self-promotion than singing the praises of the Republican candidate.

Christie is a leading possible candidate for the Republican nomination in the 2016 race.

"Double Down" will be formally published on Tuesday, a year after the last election and with political junkies in Washington already salivating at the prospect of the 2016 campaign.

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