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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everything is obvious... once you know the answer... great history but poor predictive power
In an election year, everyone wants to have insight into which candidate is likely to succeed so they can be the one to predict the election. Invariably, every year pundits of all political stripes make predictions before the election, and when proven wrong afterwards, proclaim that the results were "obvious". Popkin's book serves this role from his insightful position...
Published on August 22, 2012 by Joel Avrunin

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3.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening campaign advice from a pro
Popkin is a political scientist at UC-San Diego who has advised on many political campaigns in the United States, Canada, and Europe, including the 1972 attempt by George McGovern, Jimmy Carter's 1976 win and 1980 loss, and Bill Clinton's successful 1992 run. He makes no apologies for his Democratic leanings, but he's quite insightful about the strengths and weaknesses...
Published 23 months ago by Edison McIntyre


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Book, July 17, 2012
This review is from: The Candidate: What It Takes to Win - and Hold - the White House (Hardcover)
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Samuel Popkin has written an unusual book. It's highly intelligent, as one would anticipate from a professor. It's also practical, grounded in the realities of workaday politics, as one expects from a practitioner.

Reflecting Popkin's standing in both worlds, the resulting book has the strengths of each perspective.

Popkin's fundamental insight is to distinguish between the presidential campaigns of aspirants versus incumbents. Like so many good ideas, this may seem rather obvious--once you've heard it. Yet it's not always thought through in practice. Some if not most candidates are better suited for one or the other circumstance, by temperament or experience. Few, it would seem, are driven sufficiently by a service perspective--focusing on the needs of the electorate they would serve--to effectively adjust and adapt.

Popkin's book is strongest in analyzing campaigns along that fault line. I expect many readers will have "aha" moments of clarity.

Where some may find the book less compelling is when the author's partisan perspectives emerge prominently. That tends to be occur some of his more detailed recitations of recent campaigns.

With these factors in mind, some readers may wish to focus on the analytic parts of the book, especially at the beginning and the end. Political "junkies" or active partisans will find much additional grist for the mill in the middle of the book, amid much detail and knowledge.

Everyone will find much to think about and enjoy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Art of the Game, August 1, 2012
This review is from: The Candidate: What It Takes to Win - and Hold - the White House (Hardcover)
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This highly readable books examines presidential campaigns and the decisions that led to surprising victories and appalling defeats. It includes the Dewey Truman race, the surprising ascendency of George w. Bush as well as the implosions of promising candidates Rudy Giuliani and Hilary Clinton. The author provides a fairly objective insider's analysis.

I found this book interesting and scary at the same time. I had a teacher who used to say"Belive nothing you hear and only half you see>" No truer words have been said, particuarly when assessing political candidates. It is sad that the system, like government, has become bloated and corrupt with candidates reducing important policy issues to catchy sound bites. The vast media/government complex filters the message. I do not believe we really have a two party system. There is really only one, that is the party of self-interest. Different perspectives of crushed and the media is manipulated into promoting non-issues. It is simply a machine and the only question is to which egomaniac do the spoils go.

Overall this provides a fascinating look at american politics. It also highlights the truth of what my former teacher once said. Let the voter berware.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book about getting elected President, June 9, 2012
This review is from: The Candidate: What It Takes to Win - and Hold - the White House (Hardcover)
The perfect book for this pre-election period, the author takes us through intimate details that he has of previous elections - what worked, what didn't, who were the key players, what were the key issues. The main lesson is that no two elections are the same, and what worked for one candidate can be a disaster for another, at another time.

My one disagreement is that the author offers conclusions from 20/20 hindsight. Yes, errors were made by the losing candidates but there were usually equally serious errors by the winners. Obama won in 2008 because the country was looking for a big change after 8 years of Bush. McCain would have lost regardless of what he did or didn't do. Bush narrowly beat Kerry and Gore so it's hard to point at specific events that made the difference. Clinton beat a tired Bush and then a boring Dole. Bush Sr. had a head of steam from Reagan and ran against the dull Dukakis. Reagan was unique and would have beaten any Democrat. And on and on. The country is evenly divided and polarized in position, so unless one candidate is Reaganesque or Dole-like, each election will be close.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inside Baseball/Inside Politics: Is it Essentially the Same?, October 3, 2013
By 
Roger D. Launius (Washington, D.C., United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Candidate: What It Takes to Win - and Hold - the White House (Hardcover)
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Samuel L. Popkin is a well-known political scientist and analyst. This book is a product of his many years of thinking on the subject of presidential politics, especially the challenge of campaigning and winning the White House. He is best at telling stories of past campaigns. We learn quite a lot about the ideas and personalities of past candidates and how they approached the elections. Run left, run right depending on party and perspective; but govern from the center always. I was taken by the descriptions and history. The book is not particularly effective as a predictive volume, however, and I'm not sure that it offers much in the way of lessons-learned that might be applied in the future. Analogies are useful only insofar as the circumstances of the present mirror those of the past on which one models a response. Enjoyable and useful up to a point, this is not a handbook for future campaigning.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful book on the US presidential campaign, July 23, 2012
This review is from: The Candidate: What It Takes to Win - and Hold - the White House (Hardcover)
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This book puts special attention on the races run by Hilary Clinton in 2008, Al Gore in 2000, and George Bush Sr. in 1992, but with an eye on the universality of the efforts and certainly will color my thinking on the next few months of politicking. Although Popkin is an academic, the book reads easily and is not at all technical. It's an engaging story of non-inevitability in these campaigns and of the connection between voter ideas (and sometimes ideals) and the image-making needed to guide those ideas. There's a great tradition of thoughtful books on the presidential races (The Making of the President 1960 (Harper Perennial Political Classics) and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 come to mind) in which this book falls. Probably hard for a non-political junkie to pick up this book, but it is entertaining and even potentially useful to them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I well remember all these campaigns...., August 17, 2012
By 
Neal Reynolds (Indianapolis, Indiana) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Candidate: What It Takes to Win - and Hold - the White House (Hardcover)
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I was in high school when Harry S. Truman won his fantastic victory in 1946. Reading this author's analysis of this and other notable campaigns makes for great reading. I hope there are present day high schoolers interested enough to read this book and follow this year's campaigns. I suspect this is going to be one of those extremely interesting years which will be discussed for years to come.

There is of course the fact that campaigns can be more thoroughly analyuzed through hindsight, that the campaign flaws obviously weren't easily seen at the time. And I can't help thinking that some elections just plain couldn't have gone any other way, such as the election of Carter over Ford, regardless of campaign strategy. Still, this is a great book for all interested in history and in politics.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What It Takes to Win... and Hold, June 29, 2012
By 
Dr Adam Weiss (Buffalo Grove,IL.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Candidate: What It Takes to Win - and Hold - the White House (Hardcover)
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Author Popkin explores the finer detail of the advantages of the incumbent as well as the challenger when running for the White house. Popkin use a case model format with the likes of Hillary Clinton's campaign race to the White House, did she really lose? Or has she become one the most powerful women inn the world and possible future strong run for the White House down the road? Remember Al Gore? What went wrong? Why does it matter? The Candidate explores all aspects and political junkies will enjoy the ins and out of the story behind the story of a running candidate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting campaign read focusing on the losers, August 14, 2012
This review is from: The Candidate: What It Takes to Win - and Hold - the White House (Hardcover)
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The Candidate takes a look at presidential campaigns that is slightly different from normal campaign fare. It delves into what makes some candidates successful and why some fail and the analysis is better than the traditional "Kerry was seen as an elitist." Instead it looks at how campaign teams are formed and functioned. The stories are well told and interesting.

The only reason this isn't a five-star is that if you are a political geek, you probably have heard many of these stories before. However, the telling is strong enough to read them again.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening campaign advice from a pro, March 26, 2013
By 
Edison McIntyre (Durham, NC United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Candidate: What It Takes to Win - and Hold - the White House (Hardcover)
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Popkin is a political scientist at UC-San Diego who has advised on many political campaigns in the United States, Canada, and Europe, including the 1972 attempt by George McGovern, Jimmy Carter's 1976 win and 1980 loss, and Bill Clinton's successful 1992 run. He makes no apologies for his Democratic leanings, but he's quite insightful about the strengths and weaknesses of candidates Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and both Bush 41 and Bush 43. He also looks back at Harry Truman's surprising win over Thomas Dewey in 1948, but he spends most of his space on what went wrong with three campaigns that at one time looked like sure things - George H.W. Bush's re-election bid in 1992, Al Gore's controversial loss in 2000, and Hillary Clinton's loss of the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama in 2008.

Popkin divides presidential campaigns into three categories. There are, of course, incumbents who are seeking re-election. There are "successors," usually vice-presidents like Bush 41 in 1988 or Gore in 2000, seeking to take the place of a successful president under whom they've served. And there are the "challengers" of varying backgrounds and skills who comprise the bulk of candidates, who seek to establish themselves in the minds of the electorate as able and qualified to assume the office and serve them. Each type of candidate - indeed, each candidate - requires a different approach, based on his or her experience and pre-election status.

Although he examines a number of campaigns from an historical perspective, Popkin sets down his conclusions on how to run successful presidential campaigns in a fairly organized way. The strongest and most appealing candidate, he says, won't get elected without a proper team of supporters, paid and volunteer, who work well together, can react quickly to the day-to-day (and nowadays, hour-to-hour) shifts in the political climate, and who can keep their egos in check. Assembling the right team to win a long, nationwide campaign, Popkin says, points toward a candidate with the right stuff to handle the complexities of the presidency.

THE CANDIDATE is not exactly casual reading, and while it's full of interesting anecdotes and narratives about various campaigns, it's more a practical guide to making a presidential run than an entertaining account of modern American politics. Political junkies, and those who aspire to run for office, or at least work for a candidate, will find it informative, even worth re-reading and notating.
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5.0 out of 5 stars History of campaigns in an enjoyable style, January 21, 2013
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This review is from: The Candidate: What It Takes to Win - and Hold - the White House (Hardcover)
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This book by Samuel Popkin is nothing what I thought it would be. It's not a "How To" or "This is Why I Won!" narrative at all. It's more about the behind-the-scenes narrative of campaigns since the Harry Truman days.

Popkin was consultant to the Carter, McGovern, Clinton and Gore campaigns and is able to add personal insight to the characters that won and lost elections. The book is not so much about a candidate's winning (or losing!) strategy as it is about the team behind the president and all the goings-on in the White House: chief of staff, press secretary, speech writers, First Ladies and close friends. Cohesion and harmony of a working team are winning tickets and everyone needs to understand their part of the working group.

What's so refreshing is that Popkin does not spew out political animosity to either political party. He is an analyst and not a pundit.

And while it's easier to have 20/20 hindsight after the fact, we don't really learn why some candidates win and others lose. This book only talks about the why and how of the winners after the election. So who wins? Candidates with well-oiled campaign teams consisting of a diverse team of experts who can schmooze up to particular lobbyists win. Candidates need to be humble, be willing to work extra hard for that extra vote, and be able to spend a lot of money. Candidates need to connect to a diverse group of Americans both rich and poor, young and old. Candidates also need to be able to sell their spiel and let people know what they stand for. Candidates must be able to stand to their convictions. They need to know what sells and what works. What I appreciate is how Popkin is able to weave in the importance of the First Ladies to influence voters. The wives carry a stronger roll than people think.

This is a very enjoyable read about the campaigns (and administrations) since 1948. It's part history, part political science. Anyone who enjoys reading about American politics will enjoy this book. Despite its focus being on the campaigns from 1948 to 2008, the advice Popkin gives lasts well into the coming decades.
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The Candidate: What It Takes to Win - and Hold - the White House
The Candidate: What It Takes to Win - and Hold - the White House by Samuel L. Popkin (Hardcover - May 4, 2012)
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