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The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election Hardcover – August 4, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Political reporter Balz and author Johnson (The Age of Anxiety: McCarthyism to Terrorism) have produced an exhaustive yet fascinating review of the 2008 election, from the 2006 contending lineup through the 2009 inauguration, sure to catch the interest of those who follow politics, from Capitol Hill on down. For readers who think the news media's wall-to-wall coverage was plenty, this behind-the-scenes study is a sharp reminder of everything left out in their horse-race reporting: discussion of the issues, citizens' reactions, the real influence of President Bush, and the complex mechanics (strategy, missteps, serendipity) of the campaign trail. Without taking sides, Balz and Johnson review the numerous candidates, and the many topics at play-the Iraq war, the economy, health care and various personal concerns-while extracting cogent lessons from a season that became more an "endurance test" than anything. Addressing perennial flaws of the election process-including the prominence of money, race and gender discrimination, the impact of nonstop media coverage, and the government's role in the outcome-Balz and Johnson also label this past election one "of great consequence and a dramatic turn in direction," and illustrate why.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review
"A superior piece of political reportage and interpretation...Essential for watchers of politics and a model for similar electoral analyses in the future."

Booklist Review
Even readers who followed the election closely will find revelations and new perspectives in this gripping account of a fascinating election season. -- Vanessa Bush

New York Times Review
"Makes for engaging reading--for both politics addicts interested in small new details and the more casual reader interested in a broad, savvy overview of the run-up to a historic election." --Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

Time Magazine Review
"Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson...capture the momentous contest in a polished account refreshingly free of last year's breathless sound bites, pundit insta-reaction or fixation on trifling evenhanded and comprehensive account of the race..." --Randy James

Los Angeles Times Review
"Balz and Johnson's material is rich and built upon extensive firsthand interviews... [filled] with details that range from poignant to chilling." --Art Winslow.

Other Praise:

"The classic political campaign of our time has its classic retelling now in Haynes Johnson's and Dan Balz's Battle for America 2008. In addition to the compelling narrative of the events we remember, they have, through their post-election reporting, solved almost all the mysteries about what was happening behind the scenes in the Obama, Clinton, and McCain camps." --David S. Broder, Washington Post

"Magisterial...Captures the thrill of the campaign and its meaning. Balz and JOhnson are the true heirs to Teddy White..." --George Stephanopoulos. ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos

"It's not often that you take a nonfiction book about politics with you on a summer vacation--unless you're having trouble sleeping. But you should take The Battle for America 2008...It's fast-paced and beach-worthy, as good a page turner as any mystery thriller." --Al Kamen, Washington Post

"...a riveting account, combining big-picture analysis, important revelations and intriguing anecdotes." --Roger Simon, Politico

"...told masterfully and two of the best political journalists of this or any era...stocked with scoops and original insights from an incredible campaign--a must-read for political junkies." --Rick Klein, ABC News

"Buy it. Keep it on your shelf. This is a book you want to keep for awhile and savor." --Chris Matthews, Hardball MSNBC

"Every four years there's one great book written about a presidential campaign. For those of us who grew up with Teddy White, it's always exciting when we find that book. I think this is the one." --Joe Scarborough, "Morning Joe" MSNBC

"...extremely well-reported history of the 2008 presidential campaign...There are plenty of scoops..." --Marc Ambinder, The Atlantic

"Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson report a lot of new behind-the-scenes details, so the story feels fresh. What feels familiar are the problems Sen. Obama faced on the campaign trail, which mirror the ones President Obama faces today in selling health care reform." -- John Dickerson,


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (August 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670021113
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670021116
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #707,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

It should be the "Book" on the Election of 2008.
I walked into Barnes and Noble today expecting to read the book while I finished my coffee.
Pride & Poise
The authors are very skilled at telling that familiar story with page-turing excitement.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Post mortem books on presidential election campaigns are nothing new and there have been many of them, but 2008 was truly one of those landmark campaigns that truly warrants re-examination. The 2008 campaign was remarkable for so many reasons as the candidates competing reflected a growing diversity of voice and highlighted various tensions in American society, particularly when it came to class, gender, ideology, and of course race. It was also one of those rare races where neither the incumbent nor the incumbent vice-president was a candidate; a veritable clean slate for both parties. The campaign was also played out against the backdrop of ongoing wars, a slowing economy and widespread concern over the future direction of the country. And rather than focusing solely on the candidates and what happened Balz and Johnson focus almost as much on what was going on in the minds of voters.

As with most campaign post mortems Balz and Johnson start as the various candidates announce their intention to run quickly, reminding viewers that what turned out did not always seem inevitable or even likely at the time. The Obama candidacy actually started far earlier than perhaps many of us remember and his early performances were staggeringly bad, something the authors capture quite well. At a town hall meeting with union members Senator John Edwards comes out swinging with his proposal health care, only to be one-upped by Senator Hillary Clinton who obviously drew off her in-depth knowledge on the subject. By comparison then-Senator Obama seemed completely out of his league when his turn came and performance was dismal. The Obama machine that would come to dominate later on had not yet gelled, and for a while it looked like it would never get the chance.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Tax Accountant on August 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
It's refreshing to read a historical account that is both authentic and also pleasant to read. I couldn't put this book down! The authors cover the rise and fall of McCain's campaign, the heartbreaking failure of a forthright conservative. They talk about Hillary's equally disastrous campaign, and the frequent missteps of her advisors. It's nice to read a book that really attempts to see the entire process as a whole. In all my years, I cannot remember a more riveting Presidential election.

And of course, they cover the historically and politically significant election of Barack Obama, the nation's first black president. People tend to be pretty opinionated when it comes to their political reading, but I think that this book would be enjoyable to both sides of the aisle because it covers both campaigns pretty equally. It's a great read! I carried it around in my purse for three days until I finished it, so it's a page-turner! Recommended!
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Pride & Poise on August 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I walked into Barnes and Noble today expecting to read the book while I finished my coffee. I finished my coffee but I couldn't put the book down. The book brought back all the memories of the 2008 Elections. The book puts you right in the middle of the Democratic Primaries. It brought back the happiness of the Iowa Caucuses and the disappointments of the New Hampshire Primaries(I was a Field Organizer for Barack Obama which explains the disappointment)This was a much better book then Renegade by Richard Wolffe because it goes behind the scenes of all three major candidates campaigns. I would have read the whole book if it wasn't for Barnes and Noble closing. I plan on going back and finishing the last 100 pages tomorrow. I highly recommend this book to anyone who paid attention to the 2008 Elections.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Aaron on August 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Balz and Mr. Johnson are both excellent political journalists for the Washington Post. In this book, they've written a succinct volume telling the story of the 2008 election season, from about mid-2006 to Inauguration Day 2009.

As a political junkie, I found it exhilarating to read a concise narrative of the nomination and election battles I watched so closely for a year and a half. The authors are very skilled at telling that familiar story with page-turing excitement. With that in mind, I was disappointed with what they left out. Mainly, the authors focus on the Obama, Clinton, and McCain campaigns. For the most part, they dismiss the other nominees. I felt that Edwards, Richardson, Romney, Huckabee, Tancredo, and others deserved a little more treatment. Ron Paul, a unique candidate that had a remarkable fundraising apparatus, was not even mentioned. These people staked out positions that influenced the front-runners and political discourse in one way or another.

The best excels most in the sections about the Obama/Clinton nomination battle. They had access to inside sources in both campaigns that provided me with details I never knew about. I knew there was dissension in the Clinton campaign, but I never knew how bad it really was. I also never knew how little Obama's campaign had to work with until after Iowa, and how frustrated Obama and his campaign got at times. The authors access to those two democratic campaigns was excellent. The section dealing with Ted Kennedy's endorsement is hands down the best part of the book. The descriptions of phone conversations between Kennedy, Edwards, Hillary and Bill Clinton, and Obama are immensely fascinating.
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