In 2011, Henry Kissinger, David Koch and a roomful of titans of finance urged Christie over breakfast at the exclusive Racquet & Tennis Club in Manhattan to run for president. The biggest establishment Republican donors in Iowa flew to the governor’s mansion in Princeton to make the same case. Steve Wynn called, Karl Rove came over to the house and former first lady Barbara Bush reassured New Jersey first lady Mary Pat Christie about concerns a candidacy would have on the family.

Meanwhile the media were relentless with speculation—similar to what Vice President Joe Biden experienced this month, but more remarkable, considering the drumbeat was for the governor of the 11th-biggest state in just his second year in office. A farmer in Nebraska FedExed a letter to Christie’s home addressed to the four Christie children: It’s okay if Dad misses your concerts and sporting events, the farmer wrote, because America needs him.

Christie kept insisting he wasn’t going to run. “I threatened to commit suicide—I did!—to convince people I’m not running,” Christie said, displaying the kind of over-the-top personality that made him so appealing in the first place. “Apparently I have to actually commit suicide to convince people I’m not running!”

In September 2011, Christie flew to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, for a speech carried live by the cable networks. A woman stood up and begged him to run: “We can’t wait another four years ’til 2016. And I really implore you to—as a citizen of this country, to please sir, reconsider. … Go home and really think about it. Please! Do it for my daughter, do it for our grandchildren, do it for our sons. … Your country needs you.”