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In The Way to Win, two of the country’s most accomplished political reporters explain what separates the victors from the victims in the unforgiving environment of modern presidential campaigns.
Mark Halperin, political director of ABC News, and John F. Harris, the national politics editor of The Washington Post, tell the story of how two families–the Bushes and the Clintons–have held the White House for nearly a generation and examine Hillary Clinton’s prospects for extending this record in 2008. Based on years of research, including private campaign memos and White House communications, The Way to Win reveals the surprising details of how the Bushes and Clintons have closely studied each the other’s successes and failures and used these lessons to shape their own strategies for winning elections and wielding power.
In the case of George W. Bush, the strategic genius is Karl C. Rove, arguably the most influential White House aide in history. For the first time, Halperin and Harris cut through the myths and controversies surrounding Rove to illuminate in brilliant, behind-the-scenes detail what he actually does–his Trade Secrets for winning elections.
In the case of the Clintons, the chief strategist is Bill Clinton himself. Drawing on their fifteen years reporting on and interviewing him, Halperin and Harris deconstruct and decipher the Clinton style, identifying the methods that all candidates can use in their pursuit of the White House.
The Way to Win takes a lively and irreverent approach, but Halperin and Harris also show the disturbing ways that American politics has become a Freak Show–their name for a political culture that provides incentives for candidates, activists, interest groups, and the news media to emphasize ideological extremism and personal attack. For the first time, Halperin and Harris describe how Freak Show campaigns orchestrated by the likes of Internet pioneer Matt Drudge forced Al Gore and John Kerry to lose control of their public images (with considerable help from the candidates’ own ineptitude) and lose the White House.
On the brink of what will be one of the most intense, most exciting presidential elections in American history, The Way to Win is the book that armchair political junkies have been waiting for. Filled with peerless analysis and eye-opening revelations from the trenches, it is a must read for everyone who follows American politics.
Subtitled "Taking the White House in 2008," the recent political strategy book "The Way to Win" could be consigned to a stack of pre-election books that appear before elections (usually written, or ascribed, to potential candidates) -- at best, out-of-date by the time the election is held or, at worst, barely worth the effort to read at all. This would be a terrible mistake. Although keyed to the 2008 presidential election (most likely by the publisher's marketing department), the book is better seen as a strategic appreciation of national electoral politics in the first decade of the 21st century.Authors Mark Halperin (now affiliated with Time Magazine and MSNBC, but at the time this book was published still working for long-time employer ABC News) and John Harris (now editor-in-chief of Politico, but then political editor for The Washington Post) have compiled and explained a host of trade secrets made apparent in the past 15 years. In particular, they highlight the strategic approaches of the foremost political tacticians of the Democratic and Republican Parties, respectively Bill Clinton and Karl Rove.Judging by their current positions, both men are seen as prominent, if not preeminent, experts on American politics. They also are both closely identified with recent developments on Internet coverage of politics. Halperin skyrocketed to fame with his daily email "The Note," which was seen as particularly influential inside the beltway, until Halperin began "The Page" when he moved to Time. At Politico, Harris serves as a leader of a journalistic enterprise which focuses at least as much on the Internet for readership as on the print copy. Also, both men bring burgeoning portfolios of sources cultivated over their many years covering Washington politics.To oversimplify a bit, the trade secrets fall into two categories, managing the candidate's image in the age of the "media freak show," which serves as a basically equal-opportunity assailant (with right-leaning tendencies) against the reputations of everyone, and building an extensive network of contacts and databases to target your message to contributors, base supporters, and undecideds. Using positive examples, with a handful of negative counter-examples ("The Way to Lose") from the failed campaigns of Bob Dole, Al Gore, and John Kerry, Halperin and Harris show how the careful use of these trade secrets allowed Bill Clinton, especially during his comeback periods of 1992 and 1994-1996, and George W. Bush, during his impressive electoral run from 2000-2005, to control issues and images in ways more popularly and effectively than their opponents.At its best, the book offers an astute description and appreciation of the mechanics of the "media freak show," personified by Matt Drudge (though certainly not limited to or overly guided by him anymore). It also offers a specific explanation for Rove's "evil genius," rooted in his experiences of campaigning through direct-mail pamphlets (in some ways, a partisan precursor to the "media freak show's" assault on reputations). The book might be faulted for an overemphasis on media issues, though given the expertise of the authors in journalism and the media, this is more likely a strength. A more telling limitation, also rooted in the years of beltway experience, is the frequent assumption that the reader knows certain characters and events, which could prove a challenge to any reader who is not a political junkie. On the whole, though, the book is entertaining and highly informative, a pleasant read about significant matters.read more
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The problem with writing a book like this is that it can get dated very quickly. This book is no exception. The authors take the majority of this book to extol the virtues of Karl Rove. Unfortunately the authors take no time to really examine the record of Rove. They admit that the percentage received by Bush in 2000 was several points less than he expected. However, they still extol the campaign as being a celebration of his talents. Unmentioned is that had all of the people that intended to vote for Gore actually done so, Bush and Rove would have a historical place slightly above Michael Dukakis and Bob Shrum.Fortunately, the 2006 election and the aftermath has shown the fallacy of the Rovian principles as a governing strategy.I recommend another book.read more
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Halperin (ABC News) and Harris (the Washington Post and The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House) illustrate "trade secrets" to political victory with this penetrating examination of the personal lives and political histories of the biggest names in recent presidential politics. From the losers (John Kerry and Al Gore, defeated because they "lost control of their public images") to the potential winners (Hillary Clinton, who, they assert, will have a significant fund-raising and fame advantage if she runs in 2008), the authors extract canny lessons in political strategy. But they offer particularly valuable insights into inadequately understood players like Matt Drudge, whom the authors credit as one of the greatest forces behind the Clinton impeachment and the Gore and Kerry losses, and Karl Rove, a man who, regardless of one's politics, "deserves unique notice for one reason: he is an exceptionally good political strategist." The authors' analyses are savvy and unsentimental, without collapsing into cynicism. Though very topical, the book's comprehensiveness should make it a lasting piece of scholarship-an in-depth, indefatigable examination of American media and politics at the turn of the millennium. (Oct. 3) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved