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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

On the Next Episode of The Lead

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August 6th, 2013
06:46 PM ET

The Lead read: 'Collision 2012' dishes on who threw up after Clint Eastwood's RNC speech, and more

It's got Mike Tyson, a story about vomit, and at least one guy who has had alleged inappropriate relations with women.

But it's not "The Hangover," it's the story behind America's 2012 presidential campaign that esteemed political reporter Dan Balz couldn't make up if he tried.

In his new book "Collision 2012," The Washington Post's chief correspondent delves into the two-year, multi-character, plot-twist-filled contest to be the leader of the free world.

And the behind-the-scenes details don't disappoint.

Jim Messina, President Barack Obama's former campaign manager, told Balz his job on the campaign was to "punch the Republicans in the face," a metaphorical play on Mike Tyson's famous line, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched."

But to read Balz's account, the Republicans needed no help beating themselves up.

More than a punch, Rick Perry's adviser told Balz that the Texas governor's "Oops" moment moment felt like an earthquake that just kept going.

And then there was the moment actor Clint Eastwood addressed an empty chair on stage at the Republican National Convention.

Vomit. No, nothing against Eastwood's appearance, just the literal reaction Romney's top adviser Stu Stevens had to the memorable speech.

Ann Romney was a bit more kind during her CBS appearance the next morning, saying, "He's a unique guy and he did a unique thing last night."

Balz writes that even the best-reviewed convention speeches of the presidential race, were worrisome.

Backstage and throughout the day, Obama had been asking repeatedly to see a draft of Clinton's comments, worried that the garrulous former president would cut into his own speech. The planned 25-minute speech was continually interrupted by applause, the future second-term president growing more anxious.

50 minutes later, Clinton exited the stage, leaving the commander-in-chief smiling his way through the change in plan.

Watch our interview with author Dan Balz in the video below, or here.

Balz interviewed Mitt Romney in January, and the book indicates he still does not appear to understand why people took offense at his 47% comments.

"He believes he said something different, and the literal words obviously are the ones that people remember," said Balz. "He continues to say, 'I didn't really say that,' and he went and got his iPad, and started to read through some of what he had said, and the question that he was asked."

"He knows it was a damaging moment. He believes it was damaging because there was the perception of what he said. He still had trouble processing it was the actual words," said Balz.

Romney was also reluctant to run, and said that if someone like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had entered the race, he may have bowed out, said Balz.

"The other question he had was whether he was actually a very good fit for a Republican party that is more conservative than he is, that's southern based, he's a northerner, that's evangelical, he's Mormon," said Balz. But as the actual field he was going to compete against developed, "he thought he was the best of that group to go against the president."

Balz's book also discusses criticisms that the president lacked a real second term agenda during the 2012 campaign.

"We continue to see some of that. The question about what he would do in a second term was one that they wanted to address in only the vaguest of ways," said Balz. "He wanted to make the fight not exactly about what ideas he had, he wanted to make it about the question of which of these two candidates would be better for the middle class well into the future."

Read: Amazon's Bezos buys Washington Post for $250 million

Balz is also a 35-year veteran of The Washington Post, which was purchased by Amazon's Jeff Bezos on Monday, gaining control of the newspaper from the Graham family, which has led it for decades.

"I never thought I would see this day. I always thought the Graham family would keep the newspaper. It was a combination of shock and a certain amount of sadness. They were terrific owners," said Balz.

Washington Post legend Ben Bradlee "always said the key to being a great editor is to have a - start with a great owner. And that's what the Grahams have been," said Balz.

"On the other hand, there's some hopefulness that Mr. Bezos will be able to chart a future that will put us on a more secure footing economically," said Bezos.

Many news organizations are struggling, trying to figure out how to become more economically viable as advertising and subscription revenues continue to decline.

"We're hopeful he'll be able to bring some ideas and innovation to what we do," said Balz.

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