Christie threatened to use the f-bomb in GOP convention speech

CNN
Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 7:00pm

 New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a top campaign surrogate for former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, threatened to say "f***" during his live, prime time convention speech last August, according to an upcoming book by The Washington Post's Dan Balz.

The title, "Collision 2012," details a tense moment when the director of the Republican National Convention ordered his crew to cut an introduction video for Christie just minutes before he was set to take the stage.

Christie had been deliberate in preparing for the big night and went through 16 drafts of his speech, Balz writes. As he waited for Ann Romney to finish her remarks, organizers grew concerned that the night was getting too long and networks would cut them off at 11 p.m. before it was over. That's when Christie was told a three-minute video about him would be scratched due to time constraints.

The outspoken governor, Balz writes, thought the video set up his speech and insisted that they reconsider. A member of the production team told the director that Christie demanded the video go on as scheduled, but the director again said he was nixing it.

"Christie told her 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."

As Ann Romney's speech wrapped up and Christie was told to start approaching the side stage, he "again said that if the video wasn't shown, he wasn't going to deliver the speech."

"There were more sharp words between Christie and the director. Someone called (Romney's convention team leader Russ) Schriefer. 'I said, 'Play the video, run it,' Schriefer said. The director finally relented and allowed the video to be shown. Christie, irritated, assured him that he would finish by 11 p.m. no matter what."

Christie, who's now considered a potential presidential contender, went on to deliver his widely-anticipated speech. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the anecdote.

CNN obtained a copy of Balz's book, which comes out in August. Balz has a lengthy career of more than three decades at The Washington Post and is a mainstay on the campaign trail. His book about the previous presidential campaign, "The Battle for America 2008" was well-received.

The narrative of his upcoming book also talks at length about the Republican primary, as well as the vetting process for vice presidential candidates, including Christie.

When Romney approached the governor about the potential gig, Christie cautioned Romney that his personality "is kind of big" and he didn't think that would fit in a vice presidential role, Balz writes. Christie said Romney didn't have to do him any favors by throwing out his name as a potential running mate if he knew deep down Christie wouldn't be the pick. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty told Romney the same thing, but Romney assured both they were under serious consideration, Balz writes.

However, a rule by the Securities and Exchange Commission known as "pay to play" ultimately made it nearly impossible for Romney to select Christie as his number two. The rule essentially prevented the country's largest banks from making campaign contributions to state and local elected officials in states where big banks and bond companies were doing business. With Christie being governor of New Jersey, a Romney-Christie ticket would not be able to accept donations from Wall Street.

Romney's team considered setting up two separate campaign committees--one for Romney, one for "Christie for Vice President"--but Christie thought it would be too messy and put his state and its business at risk, according to the book.

The only way to avoid the rule was for Christie to resign his governorship. Romney brought it up with Christie over the phone, but Balz acknowledges that different accounts make it unclear whether Romney asked Christie directly if he would be prepared to resign or if he simply told the governor that resignation would be the only way to sidestep the SEC issue. Regardless, Christie laughed at the thought and said he needed time to think about it. "After that phone call, Romney and Christie had no further conversations about joining the ticket," Balz writes.

The book also devotes a chapter, "The Empire Strikes Back," on Romney's counteroffensive against former House Speaker Newt Gingrich during the height of their duel before the Florida primary. Romney's team had a series of "Kill Newt" meetings to bring the candidate down after he surged ahead in the race to win the South Carolina primary. They sought to put Gingrich on defense by planting surrogates at his campaign events, overwhelm him with attack ads and target him at debates.

"The plan was to follow Gingrich everywhere he went. 'And it was going to be a mind game because we knew that he couldn't handle it,' one adviser said. 'Our strategy was to go after him with all the earned media tactics we could employ...It was the hardest that we had ever worked, on the entire campaign. We were blowing Newt out over everything. That's what we told Mitt we were going to do'."

It's unclear, however, whether Romney was aware of the name of the meetings. Balz writes that Romney advisers described the plan to the candidate on a conference call as "the path forward plan."

Romney ultimately won Florida, and Gingrich failed to win any other state except Georgia.

The book also details Gingrich's campaign implosion in the early summer of 2011. Gingrich's advisers, wanting to take the campaign in a different direction, abruptly resigned en masse. One of the reasons they left, Balz writes, is because Gingrich had his own "strange ideas" about how to find new groups of supporters.

"One was people who owned pets. Another was Chinese Americans in Iowa. He said he would attract new supporters by focusing on the problem of Alzheimer's disease. He believed he could organize and attract support through the Internet, though he had no real strategy for that....Gingrich had always wanted to do things his way. Now he would have to." 

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