There are two winners in every presidential election campaign: The inevitable winner when it begins–such as Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton in 2008–and the inevitable victor after it ends. In The Candidate, Samuel Popkin explains the difference between them.
While plenty of political insiders have written about specific campaigns, only Popkin–drawing on a lifetime of presidential campaign experience and extensive research–analyzes what it takes to win the nextcampaign. The road to the White House is littered with geniuses of campaigns past. Why doesn’t practice make perfect? Why is experience such a poor teacher? Why are the same mistakes replayed again and again?
Based on detailed analyses of the winners–and losers–of the last 60 years of presidential campaigns, Popkin explains how challengers get to the White House, how incumbents stay there for a second term, and how successors hold power for their party. He looks in particular at three campaigns–George H.W. Bush’s muddled campaign for reelection in 1992, Al Gore’s flawed campaign for the presidency in 2000, and Hillary Clinton’s mismanaged effort to win the nomination in 2008–and uncovers the lessons that Ronald Reagan can teach future candidates about teamwork. Throughout, Popkin illuminates the intricacies of presidential campaigns–the small details and the big picture, the surprising mistakes and the predictable miscues–in a riveting account of what goes on inside a campaign and what makes one succeed while another fails.
With the 2012 election looming right on the horizon, The Candidate is an essential read for everyone who is watching as President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney square off against each other. As Popkin shows, a vision for the future and the audacity to run are only the first steps in a candidate’s run for office. To truly survive the most grueling show on earth, presidential hopefuls have to understand the critical factors that Popkin reveals in The Candidate.
About Samuel L. Popkin
Samuel L. Popkin is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. He has also been a consulting analyst in presidential campaigns, serving as consultant to the Clinton campaign on polling and strategy, to the CBS News election units from 1983 to 1990 on survey design and analysis, and more recently to the Gore campaign. He has also served as consultant to political parties in Canada and Europe and to the Departments of State and Defense. His most recent book is The Reasoning Voter: Communication and Persuasion in Presidential Campaigns; earlier he co-authored Issues and Strategies: The Computer Simulation of Presidential Campaigns; and he co-edited Chief of Staff: Twenty-Five Years of Managing the Presidency.
The Candidate By SAMUEL L. POPKIN
Barnes & Noble Review – July 18, 2012 (Excerpt)
How do you win a presidential election? For almost all of us, this is a purely academic question: if your name doesn’t happen to be Obama or Romney, the detailed advice offered by Samuel L. Popkin in The Candidate: What It Takes to Win — and Hold — the White House (Oxford) will be hard to put into practice. But since politics, in this election year, is our national pastime, any campaign junkie will enjoy Popkin’s collection of case studies, practical suggestions, and gossip — much as we enjoy reading the sports pages even if we don’t play for the Yankees.
Any presidential candidate, Popkin writes, has to balance three roles. He or she must be a monarch, embodying the dignity of the presidency, including the symbolic role of the first family; a visionary, putting forward a plan for how to change the country; and a CEO, running the elaborate and messy enterprise that is a campaign staff. Which role the candidate emphasizes depends on whether he is an incumbent (like Obama in 2012), a challenger (Clinton in 1992), or a successor (Gore in 2000). All in all, Popkin suggests, a challenger has it easiest: he can make promises freely without having to defend his record. An incumbent cannot so easily escape judgment of his achievements — think of how Obama is now suffering for the economy of the past four years — though he has an advantage in monarchical dignity, having already proved he is up to the job. A successor, in some ways, has it worst of all: he is forced to defend his predecessor’s record while still managing to create an individual vision. [Read the full article...]
Game Plans - ‘The Candidate,’ by Samuel L. Popkin
The New York Times Book Review – July 27, 2012 (Excerpt)
To grasp the managerial challenges of a presidential campaign, consider the start-up company known as Romney Inc. The Romney firm introduced its featured product last year, concentrating on a handful of small but competitive markets like Iowa and New Hampshire. By this November, Romney Inc.’s gross revenue is projected to grow to at least three-quarters of a billion dollars; it will have opened new branch offices across the country and hired hundreds of new employees. And if Romney Inc. can’t corner more than 50 percent of the market by then, it will go out of business.
In “The Candidate,” Samuel L. Popkin, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, and sometime campaign adviser, has attempted to write a kind of management bible for the business of presidential campaigning. Polling, strategy and even a candidate’s platform, Popkin argues, are less important than organization: how a candidate parcels out authority, how his staff manages his time and attention, and whether his campaign can respond quickly to the chaos and shifting demands of the trail.
All campaigns boil down to one of three kinds, Popkin writes. One is the “challenger” seeking to reclaim the White House for his party — and perennially promising to “end messy politics as we know it.” (When Obama told voters in 2008 that “this campaign cannot be about me,” he was echoing Howard Dean, who had proclaimed four years earlier that “this campaign is not really about me,” and Jerry Brown, who had insisted the 1992 campaign was “much larger than me.”) Another is the “incumbent” looking for a second term, someone who last campaigned as a challenger and now must persuade voters that a Washington insider is their best choice. The third is the “successor,” usually a vice president, who must distinguish himself from the president he serves without alienating the White House staff or party constituencies still loyal to the boss. [Read the full article...]
THE BLEEDING HILLS A Novel by Wilfried F. Voss
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith. - 2 Timothy iv. 7
The Irish War is officially a part of history, but not for Finnean Whelan, an IRA veteran of almost 40 years. British Intelligence has produced evidence that he is the mastermind behind a conspiracy to assassinate the First Minister of Northern Ireland. For Whelan this is not only a mission of revenge, but marks the beginning of a journey into the past and the return to the one true love: Ireland. [More...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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