"Game changer." We heard it so many times during the 2012 U.S. presidential election. But what actually made a difference in the contest--and what was just hype? In this groundbreaking book, John Sides and Lynn Vavreck tell the dramatic story of the election--with a big difference. Using an unusual "moneyball" approach, they look beyond the anecdote, folklore, and conventional wisdom that often pass for election analysis. Instead, they draw on extensive quantitative data about the economy, public opinion, news coverage, and political advertising to separate what was truly important from what was irrelevant. Combining this data with the best social science research and colorful on-the-ground reporting, they provide the most accurate and precise account of the election yet written--and the only book of its kind.
Which mattered more--Barack Obama's midsummer ad blitz or the election year's economic growth? How many voters actually changed their minds--and was it ever enough to sway the outcome? The Gamble answers important questions like these by looking at the interplay between the candidates' strategic choices--the ads, speeches, rallies, and debates--and the chance circumstances of the election, especially the economy. In the Republican primary, the book shows, the electioneering and the media's restless attention did matter, producing a string of frontrunners. But when Obama and Mitt Romney finally squared off in the general election, there were few real game-changers. The candidates' billion-dollar campaigns were important but largely cancelled each other out, opening the way for Obama to do what incumbents usually do when running amid even modest economic growth: win.
An election book unlike any other, The Gamble is a must-read for political junkies, analysts, journalists, consultants, and academics.
John Sides is associate professor of political science at George Washington University and the coauthor of Campaigns and Elections (Norton). He cofounded and contributes to The Monkey Cage, a politics blog. Lynn Vavreck is associate professor of political science and communications at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her books include The Message Matters: The Economy and Presidential Campaigns (Princeton). She cofounded and contributes to the Model Politics blog.
"Sides and Vavreck offer a detailed, quantified description of the battlefield--an effort to provide political science insight in real time."--David Lauter, Los Angeles Times/Jacket Copy blog
"In The Gamble, two super-smart thinkers lay out moneyball politics for anyone to understand."--Gregg Easterbrook, ESPN.com
"Good, sane tome on how the fundamentals matter."--Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution
"A work of real originality and depth. In places it extends existing work and does so with care and sophistication. In other places it breaks new ground, especially with analyses of the interplay between the media and popular references and perceptions."--Richard Johnston, Forum
"Sides and Vavreck's book is an overdue corrective. They weren't embedded in a campaign or buddies with top strategists. They don't usher you inside the room. But they have something that campaign reporters lack: data. Lots and lots and lots of it. . . . Underpinning their real-time information are decades of supporting political-science data and theory. The result is that while most election narratives track the inputs of the campaign, Sides and Vavreck track the outputs. . . . There's no better book for understanding it--and the political structures that will continue shaping U.S. elections in 2016 and beyond--than The Gamble. For campaign journalism, the book is a game-changer."--Ezra Klein, Bloomberg View
"The Gamble reveals how few 'breaking' developments in presidential campaigns (the rules are different for your local freeholder race, with its scant media coverage) can actually move the numbers. Pry out the secrets, read the data, and you can ignore the rest of the clattering B.S. machine that is the modern presidential election."--David Weigel, Slate
Table of Contents:
List of Figures and Tables ix
Foreword by Charles T. Myers xiii
Chapter 1: Ante Up 1
Chapter 2: The Hand You're Dealt 11
Chapter 3: Random, or Romney? 32
Chapter 4: All In 64
Chapter 5: High Rollers 97
Chapter 6: The Action 141
Chapter 7: The Winning Hand 174
Chapter 8: Cashing In 226
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by John Sides:
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Lynn Vavreck: