As the Republican field for president began to slowly take shape in 2011, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was an emerging face and name among potential contenders. He was elected governor in 2009 and seen as part of the GOP successes in 2009 and 2010 in the wake of President Barack Obama and the Democratic major successes in 2008. As 2011 waned on, he flirted with running by giving vague answers to questions about if he would run or not. He would finally shut the door in October 2011 as he officially announced his decision not to run and put his full support behind former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
Despite that announcement, his name was still thrown around in the early part of 2012 as the field of candidates led by Romney were not garnering a lot of energy and hope. A new book released this week sheds light on the 2012 presidential race and how much Christie toiled with jumping into the contest. He not only was considering the decision to join the race among his inner circle, but he was also feeling pressure from others.
As Christie recounts in "Collision 2012" by Dan Balz,
Craziness. 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.
The book not only dives into Christie's 2012 decision but also the process that went into Romney not choosing Christie as a running mate. Essentially, if Christie was selected as the vice presidential nominee; Romney would have had to forgo Wall Street money or ask Christie to resign as governor. Under the SEC regulation and "pay-to-play" regulation, candidates cannot accept campaign money from financial institutions doing business in their states. Resigning was something that never crossed the governor's mind. However, this is something that might be more interesting to follow in 2016 when Christie is more likely to jump in the presidential race as he is already a top GOP prospect.
For Christie, he could see a similar circle of pressure that appeared in 2011 for 2012. Christie would report that it was a top group of notable names that included President George W. Bush, Henry Kissinger, Nancy Reagan, and David Koch. Koch is one half of the Koch Brothers who have spent millions of dollars to defeat President Obama and Democrats.
It was not only Chris Christie that was getting the calls and pressure as his wife, Mary Pat, also was contacted by individuals like Barbara Bush to reassure her of the smooth transition for a family moving into the White House.
More publicly known was Christie's invitation to go to Iowa to meet with GOP caucus voters as well as a local meeting with wealthy GOP fundraisers including Home Depot founder Ken Langone. It would take time before these individuals would shift to Romney largely because of Christie's official exit and his endorsement in all likelihood.
Christie would comment on the immense pressure by stating,
All of a sudden you hear John Mack [ former CEO of Morgan Stanley] on the phone. [Langone] says ‘David Koch is out of the county. David, are you there?’
Kissinger is quoted as saying during this meeting,
Being a successful president is about two things, courage and character. You have both and your country needs you.
With all that pressure and reassurance of his chances of being the GOP nominee for president, Christie would only say he would explore the possibility of running and felt that was fair considering their push on his behalf.
Christie would not only have GOP operatives and fundraisers reaching out to him, but Christie would talk to Karl Rove, a top strategist for the last president, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani among others.
Christie and George W. Bush would spend about an hour talking during this time and Christie would recall,
He kind of asked me then what I was thinking, what were the impediments in my mind, what were the concerns. It was an amazing conversation.
Despite all that behind the scenes, Christie held a strong poker face for the press when running for president came up on what seemed like a daily basis. It would be a lesser known individual that would ultimately make the choice for Christie.
A conversation with his father who asked "Do you love your job?" would be the deciding factor for Chris Christie.
Christie would respond with a "Yeah" which led his father to state,
You’re 48 years old. Why are you leaving it if you love it?
About a year after exiting the presidential carousel, he would find himself in the mix to be Romney's running mate and those SEC regulations and his job would come into question if Christie were to be offered and he would accept the nomination.
While there have been multiple stories over the last couple years that have discussed the pressure Christie felt to run for the GOP presidential nomination, this new book truly provides a complete picture of how much pressure he received and how much he truly was weighing running for president. This backdrop could provide a starting landscape for a couple years from now when the same cycle of pressure and conversations will restart and Christie might make a different final decision.