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Primary Politics: How Presidential Candidates Have Shaped the Modern Nominating System Paperback – July 15, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0815702924 ISBN-10: 0815702922

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press (July 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815702922
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815702924
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #458,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


The nominating process is the best vehicle we have to energize old and new voters every four years. Kamarck deftly chronicles its evolution and brings a sometimes arcane process vividly to life.--Donna Brazile, Democratic political strategist

Elaine Kamarck knows more about the Democratic party presidential primary process than anyone. She divulges all the state secrets here, in a delightful manner. This book is vital for all of us who detest the process but love the game.--Joe Klein, Time magazine

What do you get if you blend a scholar's precision, a journalist's eye for detail, and a participant's fascination with politics? You get an eye-opening account of how the decades-long shifts in the rules of the presidential primary game powerfully affected who won and who lost. Indeed, if you want to know why Barack Obama is now in the White House, there's no better place to find out than Elaine Kamarck's invaluable book.--Jeff Greenfield, CBS News

Kamarck has written the untold story of why we nominate presidents as we do. Citizens will be intrigued, political professionals will learn much they didn't know, and anyone who hopes to run for president should start with this book.--Ken Bode, formerly with NBC News

In Primary Politics, Elaine Kamarck goes looking for the hidden struggle among major presidential candidates and key state politicians that has reconstituted the process of presidential selection in our time. The result is essential reading for those who would understand the arrangements we saw in 2008—and will see in 2012.--Byron Shafer, University of Wisconsin

Kamarck shows how the modern nomination system has been created by four decades of Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls. Even those of us who have spent many years in presidential politics will discover something new. --James Pinkerton, Fox News and New America Foundation

About the Author

Elaine C. Kamarck is lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. A veteran of many presidential campaigns, Kamarck has been a member of the Democratic National Committee since 1997 and served as a superdelegate in 2000, 2004, and 2008.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Nancy Kirk on October 29, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you've ever wondered how on earth Jimmy Carter could defeat Teddy Kennedy's surge in 1980, how Gerald Ford could best Ronald Reagan in 1976, and most revealing, how Hillary Clinton could lose the nomination to Barack Obama, this is the book for you. It's a political junkie's dream. Kamarck combines her insider knowledge from years on the Democratic National Committee and her vantage point as a super delegate with a brilliant analysis of how the system got that way and what's likely, or what's not likely to happen in the future. It's the delgates, stupid! Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
The full title is “Primary Politics: How Presidential Candidates Have Shaped the Modern Nominating System,” and the book fully delivers what the title promises. Elaine C. Kamarck has served both the DNC and the Clinton White House, as well as the Gore Campaign. She brings an insider’s view to the table.

Kamarck begins by recounting how—and why—the national political party machinery sought to retain control over the presidential nomination process. A populist reform movement began to grow in the late sixties whose vision was to place control of the nominations in the hands of the average voter.

Using the presidential nominations from 1968 to 2008, she traces how the Democratic Party in particular moved from caucuses (which favored party control) and winner-take-all primaries (which allowed weak candidates with early wins to gain more momentum than they should) to the proportional representation (which gives the voter-on-the-street control) reflected in the modern Democratic nomination process.

Kamarck shows that presidential candidates who don’t focus on the early voting states do poorly, and further, that campaigners who don’t shift their focus from winning votes to winning delegates in the second half of the campaign likewise fail to make the cut.

The last part of the book is devoted to discussing the whys and wherefores of uncommitted superdelegates, and whether or not party conventions really matter anymore. Her final chapter is particularly strong, as she talks about possible reforms being considered after the 2008 conventions.

I read the book as part of the research for my upcoming novel, The Candidate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Concordian on December 2, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book gives a superb history of the primary process, together with a clear and concise explanation of the primary process today. Fascinating.
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