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on August 8, 2010
The Obama Victory: How Media, Money, and Message Shaped the 2008 Election The book is going to be given as a gift. I have not looked at it, therefore I am not one to review it. Sorry.
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VINE VOICEon November 8, 2010
If you're the kind of person who loves poring over a table showing how public answers to a particular survey question change from week to week over a campaign, I'm sure you'll find this book fascinating. I'm not one of those people, and I'm writing this review for other people who aren't.

If you followed the news during the campaign, you've already seen the basic story line and ideas here. The authors recap the election and the main campaign themes of both sides such as "McSame" and "Not Ready to Lead." Much of their data tries to track which themes work, which ones don't, and how they influenced public opinion over time. There isn't anything approaching a theory here, which means there isn't any real causal explanation of anything that happened. The narrative is driven by data, debates, speeches, gaffes, and other campaign events.

The main analytical structure of the narrative divides events into five periods. In the first, McCain gains ground by emphasizing petroleum development as a response to high gas prices. The second is dominated by the vice presidential selections. The third is dominated by the economic collapse, which the authors date to September. The fourth is McCain's last surge, followed by the final week in which voters seem reassured by Obama.

They want to argue that campaign messages make a significant difference in the outcome of the election. Certainly these messages seem to influence the day-to-day ups and downs, but it's not obvious that they affect the outcome: voters reject incumbents at time of economic collapse. It's also not clear what the counterfactual is (what if candidates had sent different messages) or what explains the messages. A good explanation of the messages might, or might not, make them entirely endogenous and thus epiphenomenal. The authors are not well-positioned to address these causal issues, especially in the absence of either strong theory or an empirical research design that can control for selection bias and endogeneity. If this paragraph makes sense to you, then the book will probably only frustrate you.

Overall, I'm hard-pressed to see why anyone would want to read this book. The kind of public opinion junkies who would be most interested will already know what's here. There's no novel argument or theory that would compel these junkies to pick up the book, though its wealth of tables and data would provide a useful reference to have on the shelf. For the general reader, the book is too focused on weekly minutiae to remain interesting, though it might have worked at about one-third the length.
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on August 14, 2010
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This is a technical book that probes the specific patterns and streams of influence in the 2008 US Presidential Election Campaign. The authors analyze specific campaign strategies and media campaigns in regard to polls and ultimate votes, buy all the demographic categories available.

One could get bogged down in this book, due to the fascinating and masterful presentation and control of the details. And the charts and numbers, complicated by the multiple demographic categories, will deter or discouraged some readers who might otherwise be interested in the streams and themes of the Obama-McCain campaign.

But the charts and graphs, while helpful to visualize that patterns and waves of influence and change through the months of the election campaign, can easily be passed over without impeding the value of the text.

These three authors make a seamless team to weave a complex tapestry of the forces and floods of media by both parties. It does get tedious, but you can make progress by taking advantage of the many and frequent headings and sub-headings guiding the reader through the 314p text. Additional careful documentation is included, adding a section of endnotes that provide further context and sourcing documentation.

The upshot of this careful study is that the way media was used and the amount of media exposure was indeed a major factor affecting the attitude and inclination of voters in every segment. The authors provide clear explanations of what demographic groups were most swayed by what kinds of themes or what type of media.

One aspect that won't surprise the observant reader is the key role lies ( to be blunt about it), otherwise referred too as deception or falsehood, used by both candidate teams and parties in their ads. Positions were twisted, statement or claims were pulled out of context to conclude something unrelated and claim this was what the candidate believed or said.

It was interesting to see the role of media in regard to perceptions of Governor Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee. There were high doubts among the broad public about her competence and readiness for such an office, and confidence fell as the campaign progressed.

Key events in her downward momentum were the Katie Couric interview and the Saturday Night Live parody of it by Tina Fey, even though the governor herself made an appearance on SNL and participated with Fey and others in political satire. The negative perception of Palin was seemingly the greatest factor that drug down the McCain ticket.

Another important factor was the amount of media, determined by the funding available. The Obama campaign refused to accept government funding and was able to raise an extensive funding base, outspending McCain by more than McCain received from the government for his campaign.

If you are serious about understanding how campaigns work, and how media of all kinds are used in the Presidential campaigns, read this book.
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VINE VOICEon July 23, 2010
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The book is almost perfect except it omits Oprah Winfrey's power and influence in the 2008 historic Presidential election. I clearly remembered how she admitted on Larry King Live that the freshman United Senator Barack Obama would have been a better choice over the much-touted United States Senator from New York State and Former First Lady, Hillary Clinton. Oprah's presidential selection was as successful as her book club and product endorsements. Oprah's choice became the country's choice over the opposition.

In 2000 Presidential election, Oprah had both Al Gore the bore and George W. Bush on her show. Ironically, the Republican candidate came across so much better than the democratic candidate. No offense to Al Gore but his stiff presentation and appearance on her show with so much babble about the environmental politics didn't appeal to the public. Bush on the other hand came across as the likable guy and a Republican version of Bill Clinton. Some might say that Bush's appearance on Oprah won him the election despite the mixed results.

Oprah later swore not to have politics on her show because she might have been seen as a traitor. Her power in the American public is more powerful than any politician could have. When she endorsed Barack Obama in 2006, I knew that he would probably end up being the candidate and he became President. Regardless of how people feel about the President's role, I felt a great injustice was served to Hilary Clinton who became Secretary of State. She should have been the Democratic nominee but politics as always screwed her out in favor of a popular candidate who was with a clean slate.

The media used Barack Obama and he used them well. He promised change and improvement in our lives but two years later, we are still in a financial mess. I'm not saying that it's entirely his fault. His party was interesting in winning back the White House and didn't care how. The Democratic party was playing dirty with both strong candidates, Obama and Clinton. I thought the Republican nomination process was much more fare in deciding a candidate. Even thought John McCain didn't win, he played fair and never used his Vietnam history as a Prisoner of War as he should have in his political ads.

McCain was vilified for being too old for the job and Palin as inexperienced. But I think Obama was equally inexperienced. He was running on fuel from Oprah Winfrey who supplied the necessary endorsement to win the American public.

So I'm sorry if I wrote too much about Oprah Winfrey and the 2008 election but I felt reading this book about the most talked about election in decades to be essential part of the process. The authors done a stellar job in pointing out the media, money, and what really mattered in the 2008 election but they omited the most influential person in our country's culture, Oprah Winfrey, in that process.

The book paints and clearly explains the abundant process in which somebody becomes a United States President. We all wanted a change or something magical to happen to improve our lives. In my opinion, I don't care if Obama smokes a chimney a day if he can make our a country a better place or that McCain was viewed as too old when his 98 year old mother is still very much alive and well.

I won't say who I voted for because it's irrelevant. As the midterm elections come upon us, we hope that the right people get elected and change really does come to positively effect our lives.
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A solid analysis of the factors associated with the outcome of the 2008 presidential election.

Some of the features worth noting: The book begins by discussing a central characteristic of the election--the strategic environment. Here, the effects of the tanking economy and candidate evaluations (McCain too old? Obama too inexperienced?) are covered nicely. There is a pretty good analysis of the effects of vice presidential candidates on the election. A pretty even handed evaluation of Palin and Biden.

The book's heart is an analysis of five periods during the campaign--from June through Mid-August, when McCain showed some momentum; late August through early September, when the vice presidential issues emerged; the campaigns and the economic collapse from September 10 through October 14; the McCain surge just before the election; the weakening of that surge at the end.

The final segment of the book examines some new wrinkles--such as the effect of early voting, campaign spending differences, and the impact of messages.

All in all, a solid examination of the election, pretty much as one would expect from this team of researchers.
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VINE VOICEon August 27, 2010
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Communications analysts Kate Kenski, Bruce W. Hardy, and Kathleen Hall Jamieson use 2008 voting data from the National Annenburg Election Survey to explore the pivotal presidential campaign of Barak Obama and the role played by campaign funds, message creation and dissemination, and media reporting in it.

This is very much a scholarly study--with some 50 pages of reference notes--and serious students of recent American politics will find much in the book that will be helpful in explaining concepts and trends. For partisans on either side, the study may prove helpful in mapping future actions but neither side will be comforted by the rising influence of money and its corollary of modern telecommunications in shaping the debate to the exclusion of concentrations on more substantive debates over issues.

"The Obama Victory" is divided into three major parts dealing with messages, shifts in momentum, and a new campaign landscape that seems to be emerging. In the section on messages the authors assess the success of arguments over economics, tax-and-spend liberals ideology versus McCain's "sameness" and out of touch image, and Obama's characterization as not read to lead. All of these messages worked to some degree but economics tended to trump other messages.

A second section on the momentum of the campaign assesses the major events of the contest, especially the party conventions, the roles of the VP candidates, and especially the economic collapse. A last section focuses on what the 2008 campaign might mean. The authors discuss the place of absentee voting on the election, the manner in which each candidate targeted audiences, and the overall spending of the campaigns.

"The Obama Victory" is an important analysis of a pivotal election. Will we learn from this experience?
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VINE VOICEon September 11, 2010
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I was pleased to read a surprisingly objective analysis of the factors that determined the outcome of the 2008 presidential election. It's technical approach of how the demographics of the populace determined how the media affected the propensity of a group to be moved toward a particular candidate to vote for. The charts though not necessary in this book, the writing stands on its own, enhance and support the analysis. This book would make an excellent text book on future national elections and a great read for any political or media junkie.

This study covers the actual election cycle of the two primary candidates for president of the United States in the 2008 election. The time period is broken down into five segments that consist of McCain's gain in momentum, to the impact the choice of the vice presidential selections had, to the way each campaign is perceived to confront the economic collapse, the McCain surge just before the election and finally the weakening of that surge at the end.

The study does a good job of discussing the strategic environment of the election cycle and the shift from a public focused on war to the economy. And the effects of the tanking economy and candidate evaluations are covered in detail from facts to misconceptions reenforced by misleading ads. I like that the authors addressed the effects of vice presidential candidates on the election with objectivity. Though they did a good job on their Palin and Biden; they failed to mention that people were comparing Palin with Obama.

What I took from this book was that media was the major factor in deciding who would be president and a large part of that had to do with who spent the most money. They show this has been so since 1990. The forces in play when a candidate can spend more money than the other influences how people vote. The less politically aware one is the more they are to be influence by this advertising and take it as fact. It shows how with the micro-targeting particular groups you could greatly influence their decision without impacting those who would be offended by the same information.

Obama greatly outspent McCain. In one month, by breaking his promise to use federal funds as McCain kept his, Obama raised more money than McCain had to spend on his entire election. The authors show that up to a point, money spent on ads translates into votes. Their information is inconclusive on the effective of more modern technology such as Twitter and videos on the Internet. But I see those mediums of becoming even more important for not only getting out candidates messages but for watch dog groups who are fact checking the ads.

So as you read this book you should ask yourself, since 1990 has the office of President of the United States been bought? And will the Internet enhance the election process and force an even playing field?
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on September 2, 2010
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The failure of the Bush presidency hobbled John McCain. Barack Obama won the 2008 election with money, momentum, and message.

Voters pick between competing constructions of reality. Obama was promoted as an agent of fundamental change, notwithstanding the fact he was short on legislative and executive experience. It is wondered why press commentary failed to focus on the age stereotyping of John McCain and racial coding of Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign.

In the beginning McCain was the leader. The price of gasoline was high and McCain supported off-shore drilling and a summer gas tax moratorium. This changed because, among other things, Palin's presence on the Republican ticket was a mixed blessing in the beginning and a curse in the end.

Economic news took precedence over political news in September and October 2008. The financial meltdown dimmed McCain's chances of victory. Obama's ads hammered McCain on the economy and on his links to President Bush.

One third of the voters cast ballots before electionday. Obama outspent his opponent. He was helped by early voting.

Notes and index round out the authors' treatment of the election. I watched Kathleen Hall Jamieson on the Bill Moyer's program and this book about the 2008 election is as scholarly, interesting and thorough as I expected it to be.
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VINE VOICEon October 25, 2010
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Picture yourself with all the emotions you did or didn't feel during this historic elections. This book is an analysis, non-emotional, of all the factors the authors could account for why President Obama won the 2008 U.S. Presidential election. This book is comprised of a lot of facts behind the scenes, as well as on the scene.

I found this book tedious as with any other study text. This book is not fluff. The book can be used as a reference, and I was able to swallow it easier by browsing it.

Sometimes, I would see a comment like Obama as a criminal (paraphrasing). I would look for two sides to the story, but it seemed biased. This isn't a flattering view of all the candidates.

I believe the emotional appeal, the fact that Obama seemed to never crack, Obama calling out big money, are all equally responsible for his success.

Yes, there was a lot of media distortion, but looking at this book, among all the painfully detailed facts lies some distortion. I guess it is difficult to present an objective account of history.

I would recommend this book to politics buffs like myself.
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VINE VOICEon July 31, 2010
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This is a book you will love if you are a politics junkie. I probably I have some tendencies in that direction since this is the third book I've read on the Obama victory. Compared to THE BRIDGE by David Remnick and RENEGADE by Richard Wolfe, it does not focus on personalities. People who do not adore Obama will certainly find it less painful reading than the other two books. Personally, I liked the way David Remnick's book put Obama's victory in historical context, emphasizing the change in racial attitudes that made it possible. That book was moving. This isn't. You are not going to read THE OBAMA VICTORY and feel all warm and fuzzy inside if you voted for the guy.

What we have here a smart, statistical analysis of polling data from the Obama-McCain race (not the primaries). It addresses questions such as these: What messages worked in tilting the attitudes of particular groups (let's say, white women who are not college graduates)? Did Palin really hurt McCain? How much, and with whom? Did Biden help Obama? What was the impact of the economic melt-down? What speeches, what interviews, hurt or helped the candidates? There are tables. There are graphs. You can see how much, exactly, Palin's Couric interview hurt, and with which voters. If you like this kind of thing--I sort of do--you'll like this. If you are more interested in the broad sweep of history or what made the candidates tick, you'll probably prefer reading Remnick, unless of course you're a Republican (he is certainly pro-Obama).

The impact of money on the race--particularly the ability of candidates with big bucks to target small demographic groups in crucial geographic areas--"microtargeting"--is examined at length. The analysis is not pretty. Obama greatly outspent McCain. The authors show that up to a point, money spent on ads translates into votes, and they question whether Youtube, Twitter, and the use of the Internet generally will lend itself to reasoned discussion and ultimately enhance democracy.

The book is a fairly engaging read, the tone objective. It is devoid of easy uplift. One gets the impression that both sides crafted their speeches and political commercials with equal conviction and equal cynicism, though McCain deserves credit for largely abstaining from exploiting the Rev. Wright controversy. It seems that his people seriously thought about how they would govern if they won by foul means. Reading this book gave me a better understanding of presidential politics today. Did the ability of people in some areas to vote before election day matter? Did money actually decide the election? What messages worked and which didn't? If you care about questions like this, you'll enjoy this book.
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