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Trail Fever: Spin Doctors, Rented Strangers, Thumb Wrestlers, Toe Suckers, grizzly Bears, and Other Creatures on the Road to the White House Hardcover – May 27, 1997

43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Michael Lewis, the author of Liar's Poker, which Tom Wolfe called "the funniest book on Wall Street I have ever read," now turns his eye to the peculiar method Americans use to choose their president. Beginning with the 1996 New Hampshire primary, Lewis tagged along with players both major and minor. Keeping his eyes open to the nuances of how campaigns are so carefully managed today, Lewis is able to make some insightful, damning, and often hysterically funny observations. The reporting technique is eccentric--who else would spend so much time with Morry Taylor, a rich man who ran for president in what amounted to a vanity campaign--but it works. Lewis has written a very good book that could be shelved under both humor and public affairs.

From Library Journal

Journalist Lewis's (Liar's Poker, LJ 9/1/89) chronicle of the 1996 presidential campaign examines the battle for the Republican Party nomination and the following general election. It differs from most campaign books in that its perspective is "from the bottom of the political food chain." Lewis argues that the leading candidates were so preoccupied with risk avoidance that they failed to address important concerns of the electorate. This meant that to the extent such matters were addressed at all, it was by the lesser candidates. Therefore, Lewis devotes more attention to such minor Republican candidates as Alan Keyes and Morry Taylor and to Green Party candidate Ralph Nader than to Clinton and Dole. His book is not comprehensive, but it provides a frequently humorous and occasionally insightful look into contemporary electoral politics for lay readers.?Thomas H. Ferrell, Univ. of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 299 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (May 27, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679446605
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679446606
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #260,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Lewis, the author of Boomerang, Liar's Poker, The New New Thing, Moneyball, The Blind Side, Panic, Home Game and The Big Short, among other works, lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, Tabitha Soren, and their three children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Andy Orrock VINE VOICE on December 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
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.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Z. Blume on September 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
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 By Tim Benzedrine on April 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
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 By John G. Hilliard on January 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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 By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
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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