New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie answers a question Tuesday, June 4, 2013 in Trenton, N.J. Christie will set an October special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat made vacant by Frank Lautenberg's death, a decision that gets voters the quickest possible say on who will represents them. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
(CBS NEWS)-- Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., threatened to drop the "f-bomb" during a nationally televised speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention. Mitt Romney, the GOP's eventual 2012 nominee, almost aborted his presidential run in 2011 because he didn't see a viable path to the nomination. And Romney's advisers, frightened by Newt Gingrich's victory in the South Carolina primary, held a series of "Kill Newt" strategy sessions in the days after the primary.
These are only a few of the more startling revelations in "Collision 2012," the tell-all 2012 election book written by Dan Balz, the Washington Post's Chief Correspondent and a decades-long presence on the presidential campaign trail. CBS News has obtained a copy of the book, which will go on sale on August 6.
The presence of Christie loomed large over the 2012 election, even though he had publicly maintained that he would not run. Balz reveals how pervasive the effort to draft Christie into the race became during the summer of 2011, when figures including former President George W. Bush and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger contacted the popular New Jersey Republican, entreating him to throw his hat into the ring.
"Craziness," was how Christie described the pressure to Balz. "Unsolicited phone calls from all over the country. ... I was in this job six, eight, nine months and I just was shocked. ...I remember thinking, 'This is a just completely surreal and not what I expected,' and little did I know ... that it would get a lot crazier."
In addition to Bush and Kissinger, former first ladies Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan and billionaire businessman David Koch also pushed Christie in the direction of a run.
When he eventually decided against a run, he was again courted - this time by the Romney campaign - as a potential vice presidential candidate. Though he had cautioned Romney that he had a "big" personality that may not be well-suited to playing second fiddle, Romney assured Christie that he remained under serious consideration, Balz writes.
In the end, it was money, not chemistry, that kept Christie off the GOP ticket. A "pay to play" regulation from the Securities and Exchange Commission prevented the country's largest banks from donating to candidates and elected officials from states in which big banks were located. If Christie, the governor of New Jersey, were added to the ticket, Romney's campaign would have been barred from accepting any campaign contributions from Wall Street - a critical source of cash for the GOP candidate, formerly a private equity manager.
In a phone call, Romney asked Christie whether he would be willing to resign the governorship to side-step the SEC regulation. Christie laughed and said he needed time to think about it, but eventually decided to stay put in New Jersey. "After that phone call, Romney and Christie had no further conversations about joining the ticket," Balz writes.
Ultimately, Christie was given the keynote address at the 2012 GOP convention - a coveted speaking slot reserved for rising stars. There, his "big" personality came out in a big way: when organizers told Christie that they were scrapping a three-minute introduction video before his speech due to time constraints, the governor insisted they reconsider. When they pushed back, according to Balz, Christie told a member of the production team "to ask the director if he had ever heard anyone say 'f***' on live television, because that's what he was about to do if the video didn't run."
After another sharp exchange, Christie said he wouldn't deliver the speech if the video didn't run. Romney's convention team leader, Russ Schriefer, intervened, instructing the director to play the video.
Romney, the reluctant warrior
In the book, Balz also reveals new details about the Romney campaign itself, painting a picture of the 2012 nominee as something of a reluctant warrior.
Most of his family did not want Romney, who unsuccessfully sought the nomination in 2008, to run again. When he polled his wife, his five sons and five daughters-in-law in 2010 about the prospect of another run, only his wife Ann Romney and eldest son Tagg Romney were in favor; Mitt, the other four sons, and all five daughters-in-law were opposed.
He was eventually persuaded to run, but when his bid ran into trouble in the summer of 2011, he considered pulling the plug. In May, as he was preparing to deliver a speech defending the healthcare law he signed in Massachusetts (which opponents likened to President Obama's own healthcare reform law), the Wall Street Journal published a op-ed savaging Romney's work on health care in Massachusetts.
Romney's eldest son Tagg received a message from his father saying he was going to drop out of the race. Balz writes: "'I'm going to tell them I'm out,' Tagg Romney recalled his father saying. 'He said there's no path to win the nomination.'"
Romney confirmed the account to Balz after the election. "I recognized that by virtue of the realities of my circumstances, there were some drawbacks to my candidacy for a lot of Republican voters," he said. "One, because I had a health-care plan in Massachusetts that had been copied in some respects by the president, that I would be tainted by that feature. I also realized that being a person of wealth, I would be pilloried by the president as someone who, if you use the term of the day, was in the '1 percent.' "
In spite of any hurdles, Romney decided to persevere, ultimately seizing the nomination, but he was eventually proven correct in thinking his wealth and his air of privilege would be used against him. When he was caught on videotape characterizing the "47 percent" of Americans who pay no federal income tax as "victims" who believe they are "entitled" to government benefits, the blowback was fierce, hamstringing Romney's candidacy for the remainder of the race.
The perception that Romney didn't care about the common man was incorrect, Romney maintained. "But I realized, look, perception is reality," he told Balz. "The perception is I'm saying I don't care about 47 percent of the people or something of that nature, and that's simply wrong."
He also defended another turn-of-phrase that was used by opponents to handicap his reputation among voters. When he used the phrase "self-deportation" to describe the enforcement element of his immigration policy, Romney said he did not anticipate the attacks that resulted. "I thought of it as being a term that is used in the community of those discussing immigration," he told Balz. "I hadn't seen it as being a negative term."
"You have two options of dealing with those that have come here illegally: deportation or self-deportation. The president has deported more I think in four years than President Bush did in eight years. So the president was using a deportation method," he explained. "The view of others is, 'No, let people make their own choice.' . . . So I was looking for a more, if you will, compassionate approach, which is let people make their own choice."
Romney campaign: "Kill Newt"
In his book, Balz also delves into some of the more colorful moments of the GOP primary, a roller-coaster ride that saw at least 6 candidates at or near the head of the pack at one point.
When a resurgent Newt Gingrich stormed to the forefront of the race to win the Republican primary in South Carolina in early 2012, Romney's unnerved advisers held a series of "Kill Newt" strategy sessions to devise a plan to arrest Gingrich's momentum before the Florida primary. The plan, advisers told Balz, was to get inside Gingrich's head by dogging his campaign appearances with Romney surrogates, targeting him at debates, and flooding the airwaves with attack ads.
It is not clear whether Romney was aware of the name his advisers had given the strategy meetings - they described it to the candidate as the "path forward plan" on a conference call.
Romney eventually won the Florida primary and Gingrich flamed out shortly thereafter.
Perry's "brain fart"
Balz also describes the travails of another onetime frontrunner in the race, Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, whose own lackluster campaign imploded after a series of verbal miscues, notably a moment at a primary debate in November 2011, when Perry offered an embarrassed "oops" after failing to recall the third of three government departments he said he would shut down.
The moment, which Perry described to Balz as a "brain fart" and blamed on a recent surgical procedure that prevented him from exercising and sleeping regularly, immediately went viral, but Perry himself was relatively sanguine about the whole blow-up.
"I told somebody the 'oops' moment was kind of just one of those things that happens in life and I knew I was going to see it over and over and over again, but it wasn't anything," he said. "I think I went back and actually slept that night."