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5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book! Best Political Book Since Robert Caro!,
Although I closely watched the 2012 US Presidential Campaign (and in deed at one point I commented on it on BBC Radio 5), this book does an amazing job at giving you a behind the scenes look at what was really happening on both sides. The author shows you what the campaigns were thinking and doing behind the scenes; he gets inside the heads of the political advisers and getting past all the spin coming out from advisers.
He delves into the Obama's campaign massive electronic voter/consumer data algorithms that allowed them to micro-target their message to swing voters at a fraction of the cost -- all the while the Romney campaign was still using traditional media, such as TV commercials. For example, the Obama campaign was able to figure out exactly which bus stops that swing voters used in particular towns and they used adverts on buses and at bus stops to promote their message for pennies on the dollar.
The author also takes you through Obama's massive ground game, and he demonstrates that it was the ground game that made all the difference (holding back the tide of corporate money that was mostly going into TV ads). Moreover, their computer programs allowed the Obama campaign to figure out exactly who were swing voters and knock on those doors only, while avoiding houses they knew leaned Republicans. The detail is staggering!
That's only one aspect of the book. He also delves into the voter suppression efforts that Republicans tried to push. Even I didn't realize how massive and widespread it was.
He also discusses Obama's dismal first debate, and he explains how this awesome orator simply hates debating and sound-bytes and resists them (at his own peril).
I could go on and on, but this book REALLY is amazing. It's the most detailed and politically enjoyable book since Robert Caro's Master of the Senate (which is the best political biography of all time). This doesn't quite get to that level, but I did enjoy "The Center Holds" more than Caro's fourth book.
If you're interested in US politics, you get this book.
One final note... A lot of US Republicans have criticized this book, because the author's "biased." Well, that is definitely true. Alter leans left. The problem is that he's ACCURATE and uses lots of FACTS, and many of these unfortunate truths don't bode well for the American right-wingers. Moreover, he takes on Fox News and how they literally are the propaganda machine for the Republican party. So Fox is not exactly "fair and balanced." Fox gave a blanket condemnation of this book, but refused to point out one area where the author was inaccurate or said something false.
4.0 out of 5 stars An exciting sequel to 'The Promise',
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Jonathan Alter is a brilliant political historian. This excellent account of the Obama presidency from late 2010-mid 2013 (primarily a history of the 2012 campaign) is an exciting read.
What makes this book different from other accounts of the 2012 election is Alter's insight into the ground-operations of both the Obama and Romney campaigns. The now-tiring headline-grabbing stories about the debt ceiling crisis, Republican opposition to Obama in Congress, and the Republican primaries don't get as much attention as I was expecting. Instead Alter superbly analyses the incredibly intricate digital campaign revolution Obama's campaign created which helped the president win the election through complex voter targeting methods. Alter also exposes the near-irrelevance of the Tea Party, the super-PACs, and even suggests voters had decided who to vote for by early October.
I'm impressed by Alter's impartiality. In his introduction he claims to be partial to Obama, but he criticises him several times during the book. To list just a few: Obama's failure to resolve the debt-ceiling crisis during the lame-duck session from November 2010-January 2011; the poor-wording of the "you didn't build that" speech which exposed him to attacks from Romney; his dismal performance at the first debate; and how his apparent victory of increasing income tax for the highest earners as part of the 'fiscal cliff' resolution may come back to harm him in the future. He even quotes Obama calling himself "timid" during the debt ceiling battle.
The reason why this book does not quite make five stars is because Alter hypes-up certain facts. For example, he exaggerates Obama's apparent hatred towards sound-bytes. Admittedly, he's no Clinton but: "Yes We Can", "Make or break moment for the Middle Class", "Fired Up! Ready to Go!", "Shellacking", "Romnesia" among many more - not exactly a complete resistance to them. And Alter tries to make out Obama doesn't enjoy being president, which I think is almost as believable as Lyndon Johnson only running for election in 1964 because a potential Bobby Kennedy candidacy would have cost the White House for the Democrats.
There are a few typos. The biggest shock for me was quotes from Boehner and Obama during the debt ceiling crisis apparently sourced from Bob Woodward's "Obama's Wars" - eh? - wasn't that book first published in 2010, before the mid-terms had even taken place?
An excellent read, glittered with great anecdotes from previous presidencies. This really is essential reading for modern history fans.
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting behind-the-scenes look at the cut and thrust of the politics around Obama,
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This review is from: The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies (Kindle Edition)
What a read! From start to finish, Alter gives the reader an insider's glimpse into the President and his enemies. As we follow an arc from the devastating (for Democrats) 2010 midterms through to the devastating (for Republicans) re-election of The President in 2012, we're also treated to fascinating insight from those closest to both candidates, a roll call of who bankrolled whom, and given a primer on the way social media has fundamentally changed the game.
Alter writes in an accessible, engaging style that avoids arrogance as well as dumbing down.
As an informed but by no means expert reader when it comes to politic, I found that the book taught me a huge amount and left me hungry for more.
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I've read on Obama after 2010 and the 2012 election,
Alter's book 'The Promise' on Obama's first year was exceptional and this is no different. Well-sourced, detailed and engaging (if a little biased towards Obama), I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in elections, Obama, US politics or campaigns as a whole
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Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies by Jonathan Alter (Paperback - 8 May 2014)