Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey giving the keynote address during the Republican National Convention last August.
During the summer of 2011, as speculation intensified that he would be a candidate for president, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey was summoned to a private club in Manhattan by the founder of Home Depot, Kenneth G. Langone.
The governor expected that Mr. Langone and a few other friends would urge him to run.
He was startled by what he found instead, he recalled to the author of a book due out next month.
Sixty people, including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and prominent business executives, sat facing a small table with a phone on it. The phone allowed David Koch, the industrialist and conservative billionaire, and John J. Mack, the former chairman of Morgan Stanley, to call in and encourage his candidacy.
After Mr. Langone announced that the group would raise as much money as Mr. Christie would need, Mr. Kissinger picked up his cane and made his way to the front of the room. (In a previous conversation, Mr. Christie recounts, Mr. Kissinger had told him that he hadn’t “seen a politician connect with someone in a long time” the way Mr. Christie did with people.)
“Your country needs you,” Mr. Kissinger declared, and the room erupted in applause. (Mr. Kissinger declined the author’s request for an interview.)
The account is included in the book, “Collision 2012,” by Dan Balz, a veteran political reporter at The Washington Post, which will not be officially released until next month. Early copies circulating among reporters, politicians and campaign operatives are drawing chatter as much for the account about the Republican who didn’t run as for the one who actually ran and lost, Mitt Romney.
Mr. Balz writes that Mr. Christie “savored every moment of the experience” as he considered the presidential bid, and relies on Mr. Christie to essentially narrate the tale, which the governor, a man of considerable ego, clearly relishes.
The expressions of support from the deep-pocketed Republican bundlers underscore the strengths Mr. Christie would bring if he runs for president in 2016: his ready-made, NewYork financial base.
But Mr. Christie’s recounting of his role in 2012 also offers a reminder of his high — some would say excessive — self-regard, and why some in Mr. Romney’s campaign were so uneasy about possibly putting him on the Republican ticket last year. It is hardly unusual for a politician to have an outsized ego, but Mr. Christie lacks the masking subtlety possessed by many in his business.
At one point, the governor recalls how he bluntly told Mr. Romney to seek his approval before raising money from donors based in New Jersey. Mr. Christie makes no apologies about protecting his turf as his party’s primary got going.
“So it was a rather tense conversation between the two of us in February of ‘11, and I heard later from others that he left not very happy with the approach I took,” Mr. Christie recalls.
Even when Mr. Christie is attempting self-deprecation, he veers toward false modesty.
Explaining how, in a 2011 trip to Ronald Reagan’s presidential library, Nancy Reagan good-naturedly tried to make him nervous, Mr. Christie recalled the former first lady’s telling him that they had issued more press credentials for the governor than for any other speaker except for George W. Bush and that he’d be using “one of Ronnie’s podiums from the White House.”
“I said, ‘Really?’ She goes, ‘Uh-huh.’ I sat there for a second and I just turned to her and I said, ‘You’re bad, you know that?’ She had this big smile on her face. She knew exactly what she was doing.”
Asked by Mr. Balz if he viewed his ultimate decision to forgo a race as “a gift” to Mr. Romney, Mr. Christie said no, then declared: “The enormous gift was the next week.”
“When I looked puzzled, he reminded me that he had endorsed Romney the following week,” writes Mr. Balz, adding that Mr. Christie said, “I wouldn’t have used the word ‘gift,’ but since you did, it seems to fit, it seems appropriate.”
Mr. Christie then recalled how, the weekend after he had announced he would stay out of the race, he and his wife hosted Mr. Romney and his wife, Ann, at their home in New Jersey. Mr. Christie abruptly told Mr. Romney, after two hours of conversation, that he needed no persuading — he was ready to endorse the former Massachusetts governor.
“He got this shocked look on his face and he turned to Ann almost as validation that his ears had worked right, and she had this big smile on her face and she was nodding,” recounted Mr. Christie.
After Mr. Christie said he did not want any favors or campaign titles in return, Mr. Romney turned to his wife and said, “Wow, Christmas in October.”
Turning back to Mr. Christie, Mr. Romney said, “Governor, you don’t know how important and big this is.”
To which Mr. Christie said, “I do.”
That’s how the chapter ends, in Mr. Christie’s own words.
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