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The New York Review of Books misses the mark on books about 2012 election

Jewel Samad/Getty Images

Jewel Samad/Getty Images

The political scientist Andrew Hacker has a new piece in the New York Review of Books entitled “2014: Another Democratic Debacle?” It discusses five books — including two on the presidential campaign, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s “Double Down” and my own book “The Gamble,” co-authored with Lynn Vavreck.  (I do not know why the review excludes several other worthy election books, such as Dan Balz’s.)  Somewhat amazingly, given the different approaches of “Double Down” and “The Gamble,” Hacker manages to do well by neither book.  It’s worth taking the time to show how that is true, not just because I’m a cranky author of one of those books, but because I think his review fails to convey useful things that both books can help us understand about the election.

Hacker says “Double Down” “tells us little about the election”:

It’s like rendering the Battle of Waterloo from—and never leaving—the generals’ tents. Missing are the 130 million Americans who turned out to vote. And equally important, the 92 million who didn’t. At the least, we’d like to know why an ample majority chose to “double down” with Obama. How far, if at all, were they swayed by all that backroom strategizing?

Sure, that’s an important question.  But it is also important to understand what was going on in those backrooms too.  Ironically, you’ll get a far better sense of “Double Down’s” value from Vavreck herself:

What you get in Double Down is an appreciation for the political reality in which these campaigns are operating. The Eastwood affair was nearly matched a week later when Obama’s people finally saw a draft of Bill Clinton’s own prime-time convention speech—all twenty-five minutes—only a few hours before it went up on the teleprompter. These people, these moments, these negotiations of egos, time, and tempers—voters never see these challenges during campaigns, but in Double Down they are laid bare, and they help us understand why even strong candidates sometimes struggle in campaigns.

The point of “The Gamble” is to understand voters,

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RobertButler Posted by on Dec 20 2013. Filed under 2012 Presidential Campaign. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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