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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 10, 2002
This Michael Lewis work got buried, but I think it's his finest writing. Yes, "Liar's Poker" will be called upon 50 years from now (along with 'Bonfire of the Vanities' and 'Den of Thieves') as one of the seminal works of the 80s. And 'The New New Thing' captured a lot of the flavor of the 90s (although revisionist history re. Jim Clark's 'success' is eating away at the book's premise). But in terms of insight, humor, cynicism, getting to the essence of people's characters...I think Lewis surpasses himself here.
I read the hardback version of this book, which was called 'Trail Fever." I never liked that title, but I think I like 'Losers' even less. Yes, it was a chapter title in hardback version, but the real losers in Lewis's book are the so-called winners, Clinton and Dole. By contrast, Lewis shows the strength of character of the putative losers, especially in compelling profiles of Morry Taylor, Alan Keyes, and even Pat Buchanan.
What I especially liked about the book was Lewis' fight not to get totally taken over by what seems to be his naturally skeptical and cycnical view of the world. In fact, the best writing in the entire book deals with John McCain (Lewis is an unabashed McCain fan here, four years before that sentiment became in vogue) and - in particular - McCain's relationship with Clinton advisor David Ifshin. This chapter is very far removed from a skeptic's view. In fact, the emotion of the McCain/Ifshin relationship brought me to tears, as I think it would anyone.
Lewis is also affected by the stark honesty and un-political-ness of Morry Taylor, who is a real revelation here. And despite being on an entirely different plane politically than Alan Keyes, Lewis never ceases to be amazed at Keyes' blindingly brilliant oratorical flights of fancy.
Here's another neat thing about the book (well, the hardcover version at least)...elliptical asides about Tabitha Soren (of MTV 'Choose or Lose' fame), a later reference to 'my houseguest at the time,' and an acknowledgement to the help of one 'Tabitha Sornberger' (Soren's real name). She became Mrs. Michael Lewis not long after the publication of this book.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2002
This is probably Michael Lewis' least popular book, but it is also my favorite. Though it is now a little dated (it was about the '96 election) and focuses a little too much on the unlikely third party candidate Morry Taylor, it is a very honest portrayal of the mess that is presidential campaigning. Lewis was obviously not very experienced with the campaign trail and uses his sharp wit to highlight its unique and baffling characteristics (waving to no one from a plane stair case, having debates in front of now studio audience). It has great characters and Lewis does an excellent job of describing them, nd showing why it is so easy to fall for third party candidates and why they will never win. It is great political commentary and I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes politics, Michael Lewis books, or just an interesting, easy book about current events.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on April 4, 2000
I love this book. Still pick it up regularly and re-scan sections. It's partly the political junkie in me, but it's also Lewis's writing. Whether it is the subject, the editors, or just a confluence of things, I don't think Lewis has ever written better than he does in this book. (Read his current Paris diary entries over at Slate to see how far he has fallen.)
Yes, he does get a little loopy over Morry Taylor. But at least it is honest, a kind of magnificent obsession that tells more about personal politics than a hundred NYT and WP deathly-dull profiles of Dubya.
But every time things flag even slightly, Lewis proves that he can't write a page without at least one exquisitely turned phrase. It can be something drily humorous, like the bizarre St. Patrick's Day rally with Pat Buchanan. But it can also be that acutely-observed lunch with Steve Forbes, wherein Forbes meticulously and robotically arranges his vegetables.
It isn't anything like traditional political journalism, and in other hands it would been solipsistic and tiresome, but Lewis's writing brings this personal political journey alive.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2003
I have read the authors other two books and found them average at best. I tried this book because of the good customer reviews here and that it was very inexpensive used. What a side splitting, could not put down book this turned out to be. His wit hit high form with this book, I really fell in love with his descriptions of the race and candidates. Funny and smart comments kept coming at the reader almost if a comedy team were working on the book instead of one writer. OK the book is not the dry step by step look at the campaign that you would get with some other authors but that is part of the fun. If you read this book with say The Choice by Woodward, you get a great look at the election process and the probably would gain a better understanding of American politics.
My only gripe would be that he did not spend as much time on the Democrats as he did on the Republicans, but I understand that the Republicans really had the race and the characters for the book. I guess I just wanted more being the greedy person I am. This was a funny book and just keeps moving the whole time you are reading it. A great lighter book to read if you are interested in politics.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Available at stores that sell everything for a dollar or less, this book is a hard-copy bargain. Even for those who have read other campaign trail books, this book offers a combination of unvarnished sad truths (Presidential candidates speaking to empty rooms, waving to empty runways, all to create the "virtual reality" of having something to say and someone to listen to it) together with a sense of lost opportunities.
As campaign reform looms on the horizon, I found this book especially appealing for its detailed look at "the people's candidate," Morry Taylor, the "Grizz"--a person I never heard of during the actual campaign. The book really drives home how flawed our existing electoral system is today, as well as all the campaign contributions, "rented strangers," and other anomalies that make good Presidents an accident rather than a choice.
I read the book shortly after reading Ted Halstead and Michael Lind, "The Radical Center", on citizen-centered politics of choice, and there could be no better book for appreciating just how radical Halstead and Michael are, than this book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 1999
Most political books attempting to be funny (like P.J. O'Rourke's or James Carville's) tend to be shallow; this was different. It was by far the funniest political book I've ever read. But it also had a lot of great insights about not just the 1996 Republican candidates, but also American politics, human nature, etc. The humor and insight prevent it from becoming dated, like most books about a particular election. I've been recommending it highly to anyone interested in American politics.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2009
You can't review a product without, a little bit, reviewing yourself at the same time. If you've read 20 books in the same genre you're not just reviewing the one, you're reviewing it in context of the others.

I give that digression to introduce that I bought this book and read it in October 2008. This was the very end of the election campaign. As you'll see from other reviewers, Lewis spends a fair amount of the book talking about one Republican who wasn't afraid to speak his mind: John McCain.

One of the central thrusts of this book is that the mainline candidates couldn't say anything interesting or controversial because you can't say anything interesting or controversial if you want to win a nomination or an election. That's why he stays with the "Losers" - because to Lewis' mind one reason they can't win is they say what they think, and that makes them more interesting as a result. Lewis' McCain says what he thinks, and Lewis respects him for it.

This book therefore provided an interesting bit of longitudinal analysis of the life and political career of John McCain. I won't get into a discussion of whether McCain stayed "true to himself" during the election - some say he did, some say he didn't, and what does that matter anyway for this. I'll say that if you read this book, you'll look back at the 2008 election in a whole new light. Not a bad feat for a book written 12 years before.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2004
This is a pretty typical Michael Lewis read: exceptionally descriptive, hilarious and insightful. He does great work seeing the various campaigns for what they are; and is able to stay objective throughout the experience, though obviously he forms a special connection to Morry Taylor.
This is an entertaining book from a skilled writer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2012
I bought this book because I liked other book I had read by Michael Lewis and I thought the subject matter would make for an interesting story. This book is nothing like Michael Lewis' other books. The story telling is just not there. Just because you liked The Blind Side, Moneyball, or Liar's Poker does not mean that you will enjoy this book. In my opinion it pales in comparison.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 1997
Early in "Trail Fever", we find Republican candidate Morry "TheGrizz" Taylor in big trouble. Taylor is an irascible self-madeindustrialist who spent several million of his own dollars running for president. Lewis likes Taylor precisely because he does what neither Clinton or Dole will ever do: say exactly what is on his mind, without regard for his image or his standing in the polls. ^M Now, however, "The Grizz" himself seems to be practicing the black art of spin doctoring: a dark secret from his past has emerged, and Lewis has stumbled upon the disillosioning sight of Taylor and an aide trying to keep the story from erupting in the press.
To Lewis' relief - and ours - it turns out that Morry's secret is a great act of charity that he had wished to keep anonymous.
We're relieved mainly because Taylor, for all his crackpot ideas and he-man arrogance, had seemed to be one of the few genuine people in a world of professional phonies. Of course no sensible person, Lewis included, would want Morry Taylor to become president. But Lewis' chronicle shows that the Grizz and some of his fellow also-rans - Alan Keyes, Ralph Nader, even Pat Buchanan - were the only candidates to bring genuine passion, ideas, and honesty to the 1996 campaign. Lewis bemoans not that they were losers, but that their way of running a campaign seems destined to lose in our current political climate.
"Trail Fever" takes us all over the poltical map, from Iowa pig farms to the gates of the Citadel to the tiny Boston office of a forgotten man named Michael Dukakis. Lewis excels in rendering moments of surreal hilarity, such as his banishment from the Dole plane for videotaping a plate of shrimp. Actually, he is better off not being on the plane: he's at his best when he goes where he isn't supposed to and gives us a glimpse behind the wizard's curtain. After a Dole vs. Clinton debate in October, he makes unauthorized visits to the separate inner sanctums where the rival campaigns had viewed the proceedings.
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