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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 September 2013
There are many graphs and charts in John Sides and Lynn Vavreck's new book about the 2012 Presidential election,"The Gamble", but to me the most interesting one was a map on page 217. It gave the locations of the Obama and Romney campaign field offices. It shows where the offices were concentrated - and where they were not. The map is in the chapter talking about the much-vaulted "Obama Ground Game", first developed in the 2008 election and kept around for 2012. Obama did have many more field offices than Romney, but the authors didn't think the work they did in contacting potential Obama voters and making sure they went to the polls was really a critical difference in Obama's victory. Okay, well, if not the "ground game", then what was helpful in Obama's victory?

Was it Romney's "47%" remark? The number of ads the Obama campaign put on TV in the battle-ground states? The almost flawless Democratic convention? Obama's bouncing back in the last two debates? The fact that the US economy, while not exactly booming, was at least ticking upwards? Um, no.

And what were the reasons behind Romney's loss? His Mormon religion? The "47%" remarks? His perceived business practices and lack of divulging more than 2 years of his tax returns? His stiff personality? A lack of affection and trust of him by the Republican base. Um, no. "No", because the authors really don't pinpoint a reason for one man's victory at the polls and another man's defeat. Oh, maybe "Chicago's" decision to "front-load" their ads - airing them early in the summer instead of waiting til the end of the campaign - which might have helped "define" Mitt Romney. But then the authors point out that most watchers of the ads were already interested in the race and politics in general, so maybe that wasn't it. Hey, maybe Obama's race lost him some points at the polls. But, maybe not.

I closely follow politics - I am, after all, a political "junkie" - and I was fascinated by the 2012 election. All parts of it, from the long, tedious Republican primary to the Romney campaign's solid belief that they were going to win the election to Mitt Romney's gracious concession speech. Almost every single day between first and last day was interesting to me. But - maybe because I was part of it - the Obama "ground game" was the most interesting thing of all. How disappointing to find out the while Vavreck and Sides wrote about, they didn't think it mattered all that much.

Polls in late 2011 and early 2012 showed Obama holding a narrow nation-wide lead. The polls stayed about the same on that level but later polls showed Obama leading in the critical swing-states. Barack Obama won every one of those states he was expected to win, but one, North Carolina. Obama won reelection without much trouble and without much drama. Most of the "drama" was stirred up by the media, which needed a tense, close election to fill the 24/7 news cycles. John Sides and Lynn Vavreck take an interesting look at this election, but don't come up with many firm reasons why Obama won and Romney lost. Personally, I think it was SO many reasons that they all combined into that unexplainable, unknowing victory because Barack Obama was simply more likable than Mitt Romney.

This is a great book for a detail-minded political junkie.
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on 24 July 2015
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