Is Chris Christie back in the vice presidential running?

View Photo Gallery: There is nothing — literally, nothing — that the Fix loves more in politics than the speculation surrounding whom a presidential candidate will pick as his vice presidential running mate.

The Weekly Standard’s Stephen F. Hayes and Bill Kristol, who penned a piece last week urging Mitt Romney to go bold with his running-mate choice, seem to think so:

Speaking of Christie: As of Friday, when we wrote the editorial, we’d been led to believe Christie wasn’t in serious consideration. We now have reason to think he may be. So to be clear: We’d certainly include him with Ryan and Rubio as potential gold medal finalists. As to choosing among the three of them? A photo finish. But choosing a VP candidate who will help Romney run a big, forward looking campaign—that is not a close call.

The update from Hayes and Kristol comes days after the Post’s Chris Cillizza made the case last week that Christie very much remains in the mix for Romney’s No. 2 spot.

A reading of the tea leaves over the past few weeks provides a mixed picture of the prospects for a Christie candidacy.

On the one hand, Romney tapped Christie to serve as his closer last week at a Basalt, Colo. forum with 10 of the country’s GOP governors. As he wrapped up the hour-long event at a high school gymnasium, Christie received perhaps the most enthusiastic reception from the crowd of any of the governors as he took aim at President Obama’s leadership.

“The American people are tired of having a happy song sung to them,” he told the crowd; he went on to compare Obama to a man in a dark room “looking for the light switch of leadership.”

Romney praised Christie as the New Jersey governor wrapped up his remarks. “What a guy,” he told the crowd.

Then there was the unexpected news last month that Christie had decided to back out of plans to assume the vice-chairmanship of the National Governors Association, instead tapping Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) for the coveted national leadership spot.

Christie’s spokeswoman cited the governor’s busy reelection year ahead as well as his current duties as vice-chairman of the Republican Governors Association. But the move also fueled speculation that a possible vice-presidential move could also be in the works.

Working against Christie is the fact that Romney is known to place a high priority on loyalty and reliability. While Christie has been a strong surrogate and fundraiser for Romney, raising $5 million at an event in May, he is known for running late, as The New York Times’s Jeff Zeleny and Ashley Parker reported last month:

Mr. Romney has formed some early impressions, according to several Republicans who spoke on the condition of anonymity: Mr. Christie is often late, as he was during a $5 million fund-raising dinner in New York City last month. After a few uncomfortable moments, Mr. Romney finally had to take the stage and speak first. When Mr. Christie did arrive, it was left to Mr. Romney to introduce him to the crowd.

That — coupled with Christie’s tendency to generate unflattering headlines due to his no-nonsense demeanor — might be enough to place him farther down on the veepstakes list, boosting candidates such as former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Then again — could a confrontational running mate be just what the doctor ordered? Some Romney supporters at a Raleigh, N.C. event headlined by Pawlenty last month made precisely that case.

“I’m excited that all of those (potential) VPs are a little bit more flamboyant than Romney is. ... We use the word ‘conservative,’ but he’s just a soft-spoken guy who’s very sharp,” said John Odom, a 65-year-old small business owner from Raleigh.

Both Odom and Ed Jones, a 77-year-old small businessman from North Raleigh, said they’d be happy with any of the reported shortlisters. But both argued that what would benefit Romney most is a running mate who is willing to fight.

“We need passionate people, don’t you think, John?” said Jones. “Passionate.”