ICYMI: Budget drama, Rutgers reorg on the verge, and Christie for veep?

In case you missed it, in today's paper I recapped the drama related to the budget crunch and the proposed reorganization of the state's system of higher education:

TRENTON - On a day so busy that the Statehouse cafeteria stayed open an extra three hours for hungry lobbyists who were monitoring dozens of bills, Democrats scampered in and out of meetings to try to put together a $31.7 billion budget to send to Gov. Christie. 

Turns out, they also needed to put out a fire that began Thursday and lasted well into Friday afternoon.

Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (D., Union) - who was ousted last year from the Assembly's No. 2 post by Camden County Democrat Louis Greenwald - corralled a group of nine maverick Democrats.

Quickly dubbed the Cryan Nine, the group threatened to vote against the Democratic budget, potentially derailing it. Their conditions: Postpone a separate vote to reshuffle the state's universities - a plan pushed and prioritized by Christie and South Jersey Democrats, including Greenwald. Otherwise, they would block the budget.

Meanwhile, throughout Thursday - as though he were already down the Shore for the summer - the Republican governor took to Twitter to rank his top 10 Bruce Springsteen songs.

The dichotomy illustrated Christie's role in Statehouse politics and policy: He sets the conversation and dictates the agenda - but is more than willing to stay out of the fray and let Democrats fight among themselves.

To read the rest, click here.

Also in today's paper, I speculated widely about whether Mitt Romney should choose Christie as his veep in order to help him win the swing state of Pennsylvania:

Mitt Romney shouldn't make Chris Christie his running mate, according to the conventional wisdom of the chattering classes, because he can't deliver a swing state.

Forget for a second that the premise is flawed: President Obama won even though his running mate was from meaningless little Delaware; George W. Bush scored two terms with a vice president from solidly Republican, absolutely insignificant Wyoming. 

But Romney's V.P. pick is weeks away. Now is the time for wild speculation, history be damned.

"Anything's possible - it's June," said Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia. "This is definitely the time to write that story."

So here we go. Yes, even though Christie is more popular than ever as a Republican in "blue" New Jersey - a Rutgers-Eagleton poll two weeks ago had him at 50 percent favorability, the highest of his term - he cannot deliver New Jersey for Romney. A Romney-Christie ticket would still get handily defeated by Obama-Biden, polls show.

But what if we cross the Delaware River into Bucks County and around to Montgomery, Chester and Delaware Counties? The fabled swing counties that determine how Pennsylvania votes for senators, governors, presidents. If Pennsylvania turns out to be a swing state, those counties could determine the next president.

To read the rest, click here.