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The Presidential Election Game Hardcover – 1 Jul 1978


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" writing is crisp, and the insights are prodigious. In short, the reading is rewarding.
—LIBRARY JOURNAL

An important and original book which will be essential reading for any serious student of presidential elections in the United States.
—JOURNAL OF AMERICAN STUDIES

This book uniquely serves to introduce non-specialists to ideas that will improve their understanding of American presidential politics and, if heeded, improve the system as well.
—PRESIDENTIAL STUDIES QUARTERLY

-July 2007
""Verstoerend bleibt nur, dass dieses - in der Tat sehr einaeugige - Modell den amerikanischen Praesidentschaftswahlkampf ziemlich vollstaendig zu beschreiben scheint."" The only disturbing aspect is that this - admittedly uncomplex - model of the American election campaign completely describes it. -Spektrum der Wissenschaft, March 2008
""Brams ... describes how better insights into decision making could inform the reform of U.S. election procedures in ways that might increase voter turnout, ""reinforce the legitimacy of election outcomes,"" and help centrist candidates without denying voters a chance to vote for those with more extreme views."" -Science News , March 2008
The Presidential Election Game may change the way you think about presidential elections and, for that matter, American politics in general. ... Brams adds a new dimension to the study of this important aspect of American politics . . . [and helps] readers make sense of the complexities of today's political campaigns. -L'Enseignement Mathematique, August 2008
""I believe that this book is not only excellent … but that it is more universal than its title suggests. I strongly recommend it to scholars interested in applications of game theory to politics and even to laymen who are not frightened by some elementary mathematics."" -Mathematiacl Reviews, October 2008
""Each chapter of The Presidential Election Game takes an aspect of presidential elections and constructs a mathematical model which one can use to explore the topic at hand. All of the models discussed are relatively elementary from both a mathematical and political point of view, and while one could quibble with many of the overly simplistic assumptions which go into the model, it is exactly this lack of subtlety and sophistication which makes the book extremely accessible to a wide audience. Reading this book, one could easily imagine it being used in courses in mathematics departments as well as in political science departments, as well as being a book one could pick up for either leisure reading or as an introduction to more serious pursuits."" -Darren Glass, MAA Reviews, February 2008" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Steven J. Brams is Professor of Politics at New York University and the author, co-author, or co-editor of 15 books, including The Win-Win Solution: Guaranteeing Fair Shares to Everybody (1999), and Mathematics and Democracy: Designing Better Voting and Fair-Division Procedures (2007). and 250 articles. Brams has applied game theory and social-choice theory to voting and elections, bargaining and fairness, international relations, and the Bible and theology. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 2 reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A missed opportunity 28 Feb. 2008
By Joseph L. Shipman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is a new edition of Brams's 1978 book on game theory as applied to American politics. Unfortunately, the only new material is a 6-page introduction which treats the fascinating dynamics of the last 6 elections in a very cursory way, and contains a couple of howlers (saying Dukakis's first name is "George", and claiming that Clinton impeachment did not reach the stage of a trial in the Senate).

The book ought to have had much more on how game-theoretic issues applied in recent elections, such as:

1) The role of opinion polls in creating momentum and influencing votes
2) The allocation of candidate resources to battleground states
3) How campaign finance reform, paid ads, and unpaid news coverage interact with candidate resource allocation and voter contributions
4) How 3rd-party candidates change the outcome in key states, and how candidates and voters factor this in
5) The dynamics of caucuses

"The Presidential Election Game" is still a useful primer on American elections and its discussion of proposed reforms is valuable. AK Peters was right to bring it back into print, but they should have gotten Brams to add at least 30 or 40 pages of new material.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Informative, but no beach read 31 Mar. 2008
By mrliteral - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As of the writing of this review, the 2008 presidential election is shaping up to be quite interesting. No matter who you support - McCain, Obama or Clinton - it is kind of fun from a political junkie point of view. Of particular interest is the Obama-Clinton rivalry for the nomination; it has been a long time since a party convention had more meaning than a mere rah-rah coronation.

If you're a fan of these things - and despite my definite leanings towards one of the three, I am - it is nice to get additional insights into the election process. Steven J. Brams's The Presidential Election Game offers a mathematical look at the run for the highest office. Originally published in 1978, it doesn't provide much direct insight into recent elections (outside of some comments in a new Introduction), but there is still a lot of good material here, presented in a nonpartisan manner.

The book is divided into six chapters. The first deals with the nomination process and how candidates should stake themselves to particular positions. At time, it is best to take the "moderate" position, but other times, it is better to move right or left. It depends on how many opponents there are and where they are on the political spectrum.

The second chapter deals with the voting processes in a convention. This might be the most irrelevant chapter because - Obama-Clinton aside - the conventions rarely decide candidates anymore. The third chapter describes strategies in the general election and the best allocation of resources to get the most electoral votes. Does the electoral process favor big or small states? Baum gives some perspective.

The fourth chapter deals with the building of coalitions when an outright majority is impossible and offers the idea that one party falls apart (such as the Federalists in 1816), the other party may enjoy temporary power but fragmentation is inevitable. The fifth chapter gets into the game theory behind the Supreme Court's ruling against Nixon, and how a unanimous ruling helped avert a Constitutional crisis. The final chapter is Baum's proposition for an alternate form of holding an election: in approval voting, a person can either vote for one candidate or against another; the highest net of pluses versus minuses is the winner.

Though the topics are compelling, the writing is very dry, and even at 160 pages (and only high-school level math), this is no beach read. There are also a couple errors, such as when Baum states that Clinton never went on trial in the Senate. The Presidential Election Game may be informative, but it is mostly for the true fan of the political process.
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