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The Candidate: What it Takes to Win - and Hold - the White House [Hardcover]

Samuel L. Popkin
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 July 2012
Based on detailed analyses of the winners - and losers - of the last 60 years of presidential campaigns, author Samuel L. Popkin explains how challengers get to the White House, incumbents stay there for a second term and successors hold power for their party. A vision for the future and the audacity to run are only the first steps; presidential hopefuls can survive the most grueling show on earth only if they understand the critical factors that Popkin reveals in

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The Candidate: What it Takes to Win - and Hold - the White House + The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns + The Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA (26 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199922071
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199922079
  • Product Dimensions: 3 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 712,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"Sam Popkin is a leading political scientist and someone who has worked inside presidential campaigns over many years. He brings the discipline of an academic and the eye of a practitioner to the question of what makes some candidates successful and other not." --Dan Balz, The Washington Post"No one I know has more closely studied the link between the minds of voters and the machinery of Presidential campaigns than Sam Popkin. He's a scholar who has worked in War Rooms. A strategist who knows his history. In The Candidate, Professor Popkin teaches us what he's learned--the surprising secrets that separate winning campaigns from the ones that crash and burn." --George Stephanopoulos, Anchor and Chief Political Correspondent, ABC News "The Candidate offers a deep dive into Presidential politics. Popkin tells us why so many 'inevitable' candidates fail, why incumbency can be as much a burden as a blessing, and why the presidency is often won or lost behind the scenes. Informed, opinionated, and smart. Must reading in 2012 and beyond." --Richard Thaler, co-author of Nudge"Samuel L. Popkin has written a ground-breaking book, making use of his skills as a political scientist, his extensive experience in campaigns, and his prodigious archival research to produce a gold-plated analysis of presidential elections. His book, The Candidate: What it Takes to Win--andHold--the White House, is not just a crucial document for campaign strategists, political reporters, and academics; it is a great read for members of the general public who will find it enlightening, refreshing, and a new source for understanding the world of high-powered politics." --Thomas Edsall, author of The Age of Austerity"Popkin is that rare academic who can write a fast-moving, punchy book that rescues political science from spreadsheets and algorithms and thereby makes it interesting and captivating. The Candidate is argumentative, opinionated, provocative and a g

About the Author

There are two winners in every presidential election campaign: The inevitable winner when it begins 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 academic research - analyzes what it takes to win the next campaign. 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, incumbents stay there for a second term and successors hold power for their party. A vision for the future and the audacity to run are only the first steps; presidential hopefuls can survive the most grueling show on earth only if they understand the critical factors that Popkin reveals in The Candidate.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Mark Meynell TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I guess this book will initially appeal only to politics junkies and West Wing devotees (which is probably why I read it). But I suspect many others may well enjoy it despite that - it's pacey, readable and insightful. And actually, surprisingly relevant to all kinds of other walks of life.

A politics professor and former Democrat party campaign consultant (from McGovern through to Gore), Samuel Popkin has sought to expose the arcane and often dark arts of US presidential campaigning in The Candidate. The results are fascinating. Here are just a few windows into this bizarre parallel world. In analysing historical campaigns, Popkin makes the seemingly obvious, but usually overlooked, point:
"Candidates would be better off by examining losers. General William Westmoreland, commander of the American forces in Vietnam, explained to reporters why he had not read any books written by French generals after their devastating defeat there. "They lost", he explained. And so did we." (p5)

This is in part because of what he articulates (by appropriating the great Barbara Tuchman's brilliant description of military campaigns) as `the unfolding of miscalculations.' (p6) Quite how those miscalculations have unfolded is instructive - which is why he focuses on the failed campaigns of apparently `inevitable' candidates: George H. W. Bush in 1992, Al Gore in 2000, and Hillary Clinton in 2008. The reasons for each failure were complex and mixed but all are revealing.

EGO PARADOXES
You have to be pretty sure of yourself to want to preside over anyone else, let alone the most powerful nation on earth. Some are instinctively distrustful of all politicians precisely because of this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Quite What the Title Promises 21 Feb 2013
By C. M. Cotton TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Work You Will Not Want To Miss! 17 Aug 2012
By James Gallen TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
"The Candidate" is a timely book that takes the reader inside the highest levels of a presidential campaign. Author Samuel Popkin draws on his experience from four presidential campaigns to learn what works and what does not, why some win and others lose and why some failures were inevitable just from the structure and focus of campaign staffs.

Although drawing also on earlier campaigns, this book consists largely of case studies of inevitable winners...who lost: Hillary Clinton in 2008, George Bush in 1992 and Al Gore in 2000. Popkin explains the difference between the races of an incumbent, a successor and a challenger. This is a distinction that, he says, George Bush and his campaign did not appreciate in 1992. While Bush got it together enough to triumph as the successor to Ronald Reagan in 1988, Al Gore failed to catch on and hence has introduced himself as the one who used to be the next president of the United States. The narrative of the Clinton-Obama primary race makes for fascinating reading.

Besides the case studies of the focus races, Popkin delves into the Truman upset of 1948 to show how it was not the result of the "Give'em Hell" campaign, but almost four years of substantive decisions that enabled the campaign to be a success. His extensive study of why Ronald Reagan, despite being consistently underestimated, became the standard setting success that he did will surprise some and confirm the beliefs of others. The chapter on the particular opportunities and challenges facing vice-presidents guides the reader's thoughts along sensible lines.

In his conclusion, Popkin gives his version of the team that works, what it needs, what it must avoid and how it will make or break a campaign.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars the real West Wing.
Interesting book taking a look behind the scenes during US Presidential campaigns. As a big West Wing fan, this was the factual campaigns that mirrored the fictional final series... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative and interesting
The author’s stated aim is to: “attempt to explain the intricacies of a presidential campaign by examining the winners and the losers, the small details and the big picture, the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Good well written political book
This is a well written book that deals mainly with three USA Presidental elections.1976, 1991, and 2008 - Althought at times the book can seem dated with references to what will... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Birmingham Book Reader
4.0 out of 5 stars Some fascinating content - but change the title
There's some fascinating content in this book and it will certainly appeal to anyone interested in politics. Read more
Published 5 months ago by D. P. Mankin
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Insider Insights
Samuel L. Popkin is a professor at the University of California, San Diego, and has worked as campaign adviser. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Benjamin J. Whitehouse
5.0 out of 5 stars funny and insightful
For fans of politics, the west wing and those who stay up all night on election night this is for you. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mr. F. E. Marioni
5.0 out of 5 stars Democrat perspective of US politics
If you are a fan of The War Room, Primary Colours, House of Cards and The West Wing this is a great first hand account of what it takes to get into the White House. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Andrew Dalby
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb book but only for the real political junkies
It's not often I find myself agreeing with anything Carl Rove has to say but when he says "The Candidate is argumentative, opinionated, provocative and a great read for any... Read more
Published 15 months ago by M. D.
4.0 out of 5 stars Well researched and interesting theory
samuel L Popkin is a person who has been involved in four presidential campaigns, all of them for democratic candidates. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Christian
4.0 out of 5 stars Applying For The Most Powerful Job In The World
Somewhat dated at this point - after all, the winner of the 2012 election is well known - The Candidate is a necessarily dry but curious read. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Mr. M. A. Reed
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