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The Gamble:
Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election
Updated Edition
John Sides & Lynn Vavreck
With a new preface by the authors

Honorable Mention for the 2013 PROSE Award in Government & Politics, Association of American Publishers

Paperback | 2014 | $19.95 | £14.95 | ISBN: 9780691163635
360 pp. | 6 x 9 | 50 line illus. 23 tables.
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400852277 |
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A Q&A with authors John Sides & Lynn Vavreck

(UCLA authors' interviews)

"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 and drawing on extensive quantitative data, they look beyond the anecdote, folklore, and conventional wisdom that often pass for election analysis to separate what was truly important from what was irrelevant. The Gamble combines this data with the best social science research and colorful on-the-ground reporting, providing the most accurate and precise account of the election yet written—and the only book of its kind.

In a new preface, the authors reflect on the place of The Gamble in the tradition of presidential election studies, its reception to date, and possible paths for future social science research.

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 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,

"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

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Table of Contents:

List of Figures and Tables ix
Preface to the Paperback Edition xiii
Foreword by Charles T. Myers xix
Acknowledgments xxi
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
Appendixes 243
Notes 273
Index 323

Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Lynn Vavreck:


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