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VINE VOICEon June 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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on August 1, 2013
My first degree was in Political Science and History. I spent 1 year at an American University studying American Politics and time at a German University studying voting patterns and I have taught International Relations Theory at Indiana University. I am therefore well versed in election theory and what it takes to win elections. From this angle this book does a very poor job of putting forward a theory with what it takes to Win and Hold the White House......what it should be called is "How Candidates Lose Elections" because in essence this is what the book is about.

There is an old saying in the UK, "Oppositions don't win elections, governments lose them" and in essence this is the basis of the book, how people lose elections. The author examines the failed campaigns of Carter, George HW Bush, Gore, and Hillary Clinton and explains in great detail how and why they lost. In essence, Poplin puts forward the thesis that they were bad campaigners and so lost elections. I feel the analysis is broad and sweeping and especially in Gore's case questionable. Gore lost by losing Florida by a few hundred votes, in a State controlled by Jeb Bush and with a Rep Secretary of State who decided which votes counted and which did not. To apply Popkin's analysis in the way he has to such a situation is I think somewhat misguided.

For me this is an interesting "history" type book, but the analysis used needs a lot of refining if it is to succeed in its premise of explaining how to pick the winner in an American election and what it takes to hold onto the White House. Its not a bad book but having read it, I could not recommend it, if you are looking for what the title promises.
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VINE VOICEon March 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon January 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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VINE VOICEon October 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The book claims that every campaign begins with an inevitable winner who nearly always loses to what becomes the inevitable winning campaign... after we see the final result. In other words hindsight is 20-10 and early predictions are almost always wrong.

The book gives an in-depth exploration of the 1992, 2000 and 2008 presidential elections as well as about every other election since 1948.

About half the stuff in the book I find really interesting and about half I disagree with.

For example, I really liked Popkin's statement that we don't really have a good way to assess campaigns. He uses a golf analogy: Did Bush's bogey beat Gore's double-bogey, or did Gore's par lose to Bush's birdie ? I use another sports analogy, if a basketball or football team loses by one point, too many people think the losing team has a lousy coach the winning team has great players and the outcome was always inevitable to everyone.

I have to disagree with the point of a lot of Popkin's choice of facts. He mentions in June 1999 Gore was leading Bill Bradley by an average of 59-32 and for some reason compared it to George H. W. Bush's trouble breaking 40 % against Republicans in 1987. However, Gore had only one primary opponent while Bush was in a eight or ten candidate field which included Bob Dole, Jack Kemp, Paul Laxalt, Pat Robertson, Pete DuPont and others.

Also, it is a great over-simplification to say George H. W. Bush, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton could in any way be considered to be inevitable winners for more than a brief period of time. I was surprised to see Popkin correctly mentions the November 1991 Pennsylvania Senate race that Harris Wofford won. The day after the election Mark Shields shocked us by saying that as of that day Pennsylvania was in the Dem column for 1992. Still the top ten Democrats (Coumo, Mitchell, Gephardt, Gore, Bradley, Kerry, Kerrey and Casey, etc) all sat out the race and the field consisted of third-rate candidates like the mayor of Irvine, California, Paul Tsongas, Jerry Brown and Bill Clinton. On Memorial Day 1992 H.Ross Perot was leading Bush, with Clinton in third place. So there was a time in March 1991 when it seemed like Bush was inevitable, but many candidates have their 15 nanoseconds of fame like Herman Cain, Paul Simon, Richard Gephardt and so many others.

Who ever thought Gore was an inevitable winner ? Maybe for a few days in 1997. But by January 1998 with the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the December 1998 impeachment the Democrat brand was badly tarnished. Bush led in many polls from April to November 2000. The Dow peaked in January 2000, so the Democrats case in 2000 was not all that strong. The book cites Robert Squire as a media expert for Gore in 2000. Unless he participated in Obama's 2008 campaign I think Bob is the only strategist in world history who has lost every race he has been associated with.

Popkin states that Reagan, both Bushes, Carter, Obama and and Nixon were all improbable or even implausible candidates. Is it really that interesting that in the 1940's, Reagan was so liberal that he was not on anyone's radar for the 1976 nomination against Ford as Popkin points out ? Popkin also cites the fifteenth place Carter held in the Democrat field, but the only significance of that is that polls in 1975 of candidates with less than 1% name recognition are less than worthless.

Perhaps the biggest disappoint of the book is that it never really addresses the cover's claim that it will tell what it takes to win and hold the White House. I am sure many read the book to help predict who would win this year.

The lessons of winning are hard to remember. In 1992, James Carville was the first to crack the code to winning elections. Only three concepts are essential: 1) the economy, 2) the economy and 3) the economy. In 2004, I saw Carville crack an egg on his forehead as part of a bet when Kerry lost. He was mumbling something about Kerry won all three debates and had a better campaign.

Popkin thinks having the best campaign is the key to winning.

There are hundreds of debaters who could have beaten Reagan, but he won because those 'better campaigns' will cause 30 years of double digit unemployment and Reagan's policies caused GNP (now we use the GDP measurement) to grow from about 5 trillion to 15 trillion in 30 years.

Even after the third Romney-Obama debate Carville was mumbling about nonsense on CNN and we needed his interview partner, Ari Fleisher, to inform us what the key to winning elections was: appealing to people about the economy. Condescending, smart-alect remarks like telling Romney that air-craft carriers are boats that airplanes can land on may be winning debate points, but the 'better campaign' rarely wins as Popkin believes.

The one thing I do agree with Popkin is that on November 7 we will have an extremely inevitable winner. For the next fifty years either:

1) How could anyone think Obama could even win eight states after 43 months of 8-10% unemployment and passing by far the two most unpopular pieces of legislation in US history ?

2) How could anyone think the worst candidate in US history would beat Obama ?
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VINE VOICEon September 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The main theme of this book is how to get elected to the office of President of the United States. Much more time is spent explaining how you can lose an election than how you can win an election. It seems that winning only requires that you be better than your opponent at campaigning. Put another way, it's easy to win as long as your opponent sticks his foot into his mouth. That said, there are some gaffes that are much more egregious and likely to cost you a campaign then there are great speeches that will win you a campaign.

The author spends a considerable amount of time analyzing campaigns that, in one form or another, melted down and cost the candidate the election. Examples are Carter, Bush 41, and Gore. If we listen to the author, all of these individuals should have handily won either the man election or reelection, but failed to do two major gaffes during their campaigns.

If the author is right about his theory, then it should be fairly easy at this point to figure out who will win the election in November. By his definition, it would appear that the Romney campaign is in much more trouble than the Obama campaign. Whether or not that is true won't be known until November, however. As another reviewer put it, this book seems to have 20/20 hindsight. It may be that the only real value is in analyzing losses rather than in predicting outcomes.

I would strongly recommend this book for political junkies. It is interesting, well-written, and presents a side of the campaign that is not often evaluated. I will be following the election in November and will be curious to see if the authors theories hold up.
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on September 23, 2012
`The Candidate' is one of those political books that is a joy to read because it is clear, informative and fascinating to read.

This focuses on the Presidential campaigns of the late 20th and 21st century and explains what made some campaigns a success and what doomed others to failure. I particularly enjoyed the chapter comparing Obama's and Hilary Clinton's campaigns and the chapter explaining how teamwork is important using Ronald Reagan as an example. Also, surprisingly, I came away with a better understanding of George W Bush and why he was so successful when he was vilified globally.

One part of this book that annoyed me was the ever changing gender in paragraphs. For example `He needed to be dynamic to win. If she was dynamic it would mean....' I guess the author may have done this to be gender neutral and not to come across as sexist, but a simple disclaimer at the start of the book would have made the book clearer and more elegant to read.

After reading this book you come away with a better understanding of what it takes a challenger, incumbent or successor to win the Presidency and it will make the upcoming election more interesting to watch as you try to decide what aspects of their campaigns are running successfully or not. It will also help you understand why.

If you enjoy learning more about domestic politics or political books in general then this is well worth a read. I found it to be clear and interesting and would happily recommend it.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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on December 25, 2013
I wanted to love this book, and I agree with other reviews that the introduction and the "packaging" of this content are good. Yet as a self-proclaimed political junkie, I have read a lot of the primary sources that this author used to piece together entire sections. For example, the chapter called "The Challenger Who Couldn't Lose" about Clinton v. Obama '08 is sourced heavily by the infamous Game Change book by Heilemann and Halperin as well as the book by WaPo Journalist Dan Balz. If you've read those (as I have) and others like them from historical campaigns, skip this one. Otherwise, this might be your cup of tea if you're into understanding the machinery behind modern politics.
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VINE VOICEon October 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Popkin's book is a lively, witty, and engaging look at the men (and women) behind the proverbial curtain. He takes us inside the mechanics of several presidential and primary campaigns, including Hillary Clinton's 2008 bid for the Democratic nomination. I was pleasantly surprised to find the book strictly focused on how a candidate wins (or loses) elections--it was not the disguised political polemic that some of these books can be.

Presidential campaigns are massive, often overly-complex machines. Popkin gives us a look at the inner workings of the machine: the ground game, the relationship between the campaign and the media, the platform's presentation, the strategy sessions...if anyone remembers the brilliant but short-lived HBO series "K-Street," this book is akin to a reader's K-Street (or Capitol Hill, as the case may be).

Most of all, it was fascinating to read an insider's account of how public opinion is so easily shaped, swayed, and reshaped in America. Popkin provides ample examples of events, advertisements, debates, speeches, &c., that are as precisely calibrated as a Stradivarius violin to nuance, shape, and ultimately bend opinion and the all-important poll numbers in the right (or left) directions.

An upbeat, highly relevant read--especially as we have entered yet another "Most Historic Election Ever!!" period.
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Just in time for the 2012 US presidential election - and its inevitable postmortems - political scientist Samuel L. Popkin provides his take on past White House campaigners and explains why some succeeded while others failed. Popkin succinctly lays out the three major assignments that a presidential candidate must fulfill during this arduous campaign: Be one of the people, present a vision and run a well-managed campaign. A candidate who doesn't measure up on all three counts, Popkin says, will never get the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (or perhaps win any other political race, so his advice applies, in part, beyond the US or the presidential campaign). The only blot on this entertaining read is the occasional misspelling or transposition of famous names - but Popkin's observations are so engaging that you probably will forgive him. getAbstract thinks political junkies will find this a page-turner, but, thanks to Popkin's conversational and accessible style, so will anyone who cares about the democratic process anywhere. Winston Churchill allegedly said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the rest." But perhaps a different piece of Churchillian wisdom applies: "Politics are almost as exciting as war, and quite as dangerous."
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