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The Thumpin': How Rahm Emanuel and the Democrats Learned to Be Ruthless and Ended the Republican Revolution Hardcover – May 8, 2007

3.8 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

President Bush colorfully characterized the Democrats' victory in the 2006 elections as a "thumpin'." Chicago Tribune reporter Bendavid recalls the long and arduous campaign to retake Congress under the leadership of Illinois congressman Rahm Emanuel, a brash and energetic politician. Only a second-term congressman, Emanuel was tapped to run the campaign, recruit candidates, raise money, and craft strategy. Known for his hard-knuckle brand of politics, Emanuel identified 50 candidates and began the steep climb to unravel the conventional wisdom that Republicans--the conservative branch no less--would dominate American politics for another generation. Emanuel's criterion for the 50 was not that they could pass a litmus test on issues of abortion and gun control but that they could win. Bendavid traces Emanuel's campaign from early doubts that the Democrats could retake the House to the triumph of seating the first female Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who first identified Emanuel for the job as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. This book is as exciting as the election itself, with the added benefit of behind-the-scenes details. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


“In this remarkably reported and beautifully written book, Naftali Bendavid provides a vivid, no-holds-barred account of how one man—through force of willpower, drive, and vision—led Democrats to respect and power in Washington after years of Republican dominance. With unprecedented access, Bendavid puts you inside the room and on the campaign trail with Rahm Emanuel, the fiery leader of the Democratic effort, as he cajoles and curses his way to an improbable sweep of the House in 2006. This is a gripping story, tautly told, of a pivotal election that dramatically changed the power structure in the nation's capital and put significant limits on President Bush's agenda.” 
—Jan Crawford Greenburg, legal correspondent, ABC News, and author of Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court

“Naftali Bendavid got amazing access for a political reporter, and in The Thumpin’ he puts it to effective use. His book provides a revealing look at how modern political campaigns are actually run. His portrait of Rahm Emanuel—warts and all—is insightful and often entertaining.” —Michael Isikoff, author of Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (May 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385523289
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385523288
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #750,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I love political history and insider accounts of campaigns. This is a bit of both. Unfortunately, it is also a hymn to the brilliance that is Rahm Emanuel (in the eyes of the author).

While it does offer behind-the-scenes, first-hand accounts of the machinations and strategies of the DCCC 2006 campaigns, the author seems to feel that Rahm could do no wrong.

For example, he completely whitewashes the fact that Rahm and the Democrats knew about the Foley scandal even before the Republicans (p. 174) and he accepts without comment that the "Six for '06" agenda happened in "100 hours" (p. 207).

Evaluating the strategy presented in the book, Rahm's keys to the successful 2006 elections seem to be:
(1) Tireless energy; work every day and never let up.
(2) Focus on the goal at hand -- win control of the House; never let anything, whatever the consideration, deflect you from that goal.
(3) Never rest on your laurels; even when you are ahead, push push push until the votes are actually in.
(4) Push everyone around you to be as relentless as you are in pursuit of your goal.

These are good habits to have no matter what side of the aisle you are on and the book demonstrates them in rich detail.

Interesting note: RNCC head Tom Cole (R-OK) is telling his staffers to read this book so that they can see that the Democrats owed a lot of their victory to Republican screw-ups rather than Democrat invincibility. (A fact the author admits at the end of the book on p. 208, third paragraph.)

Overall, a good look at the election and the strategy involved, but it would have been nice to include the mistakes that Rahm made and not present just an encomium to his abilities.
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Format: Hardcover
Chicago Tribune reporter Naftali Bendavid spent two years with the tough-speaking head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Rahm Emanuel and uses this fly-on-the-wall experiences as the basis -- almost the sole basis -- of this book.
It's an entertaining read. Emanuel, famed for his expletive-laced speech and ruthlessness, is an engaging and charismatic subject and we experience all the ups and downs of the campaign from his perspective.
Bendavid credits Emanuel with helping to end the Democrats' psychology of being perpetual losers and softees who have been crushed by the macho Republicans in election after election. He's the first Democrat for years with the toughness to counter the Republican machine, meeting toughness with toughness. One of his most important achievements, according to Bendavid, was recruiting candidates equally committed to winning with the persistence and focus to stay the course, raise the money and rebut the negatives attacks when they came.
The book's strength is also its weakness. The relentless focus on Emanuel as the fulcrum around which everything turns means there's little objective analysis. Bendavid admits the Republicans were already headed for a bruising election setback as the war in Iraq took a wrong term and especially following the Hurricane Katrina fiasco. The sleaze factor also played a major role. Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff were bad enough but when the Mark Foley sex scandal broke just before the election, the results for Republicans were disastrous.
Bendavid does not identify all his sources and does not do a sufficient job of attributing his quotes. Which were made to him and which did he pick up off TV or from other media interviews? He doesn't always say.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a real eye opener . If you want to understand Democratic and Chicago's political stragedies today read this book. Rahm's methods- take no prisoners- made alot of things clear to me about smearring candidates reputation and if that doesn't work he likes to bankrupt opposing candidates political and personal finances....he's a real piece of work and this book explains his tactics.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most campaign accounts are about presidential campaigns. The few books that focus on other races tend to focus on major senate races. The Thumpin' offers something different, a look at the national Congressional campaign of 2006. This is not a book that could or should be written in every election year because most Congressional elections do not have the national effect present here. The book's focusing point is Rahm Emanuel, a colorful personality who has had an extremely successful political career. The book gives Emanuel, and his famous family, some biographical treatment and digs into Emanuel's relationship with his fellow lawmakers.

As a result of organizing around Emanuel and following only him, the book misses the chance to dig deeper into candidates and history. The historical discussion of the role of the DCCC and the NRCC is reduced to only a few paragraphs. The book suggests at various points that Emanuel is a different type of campaign committee chief, but does not offer enough comparisons to really drive home the point. That may be because the author did not do much research beyond the considerable time he spent following Emanuel. The timeline in the book can also be a bit murky, as some anecdotes are dropped in as the book progresses from various times during the campaign.
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