The Battle for America, 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election

Overview

The election of 2008 shattered political barriers, illuminated under-currents of race, gender, and class, and ignited an extraordinary battle among some of the most formidable political rivals ever to seek the presidency in Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain. It was an election that played out against a back-drop of wars, a failing economy, and deep pessimism about the future.

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Overview

The election of 2008 shattered political barriers, illuminated under-currents of race, gender, and class, and ignited an extraordinary battle among some of the most formidable political rivals ever to seek the presidency in Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain. It was an election that played out against a back-drop of wars, a failing economy, and deep pessimism about the future.

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Editorial Reviews

Michiko Kakutani
…makes for engaging reading—for both politics addicts interested in small new details and the more casual reader interested in a broad, savvy overview of the run-up to a historic election…if the authors fail to reframe the election in any significant new way, their retrospective does prove useful in reminding us…of the daunting odds that Mr. Obama overcame to win the White House in the first place.
—The New York Times
Ted Widmer
…an impressive effort delivered by two seasoned Washington reporters…The Battle for America boldly asserts its own importance in its title, and unlike many such pronouncements, it largely delivers. Through a judicious blend of facts, anecdotes, close-ups and wide-angle shots, it retells the story of the rise of a politician who was by no means foreordained to win the presidency…thanks to this book, we have a pretty good sense of where we are and how we got here.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Balz and Johnson offer an incredibly detailed but concise account of the 2008 presidential election, landing on every highlight of the campaign—the debates, Sarah Palin's blunders and the Obama victory celebration in Grant Park. The authors present clear and unbiased interviews with each of the prime candidates as well as behind the scenes accounts of the ups, downs and incessant bickering that made the election so riveting. Dick Hill brings an investigative and theatrical tone to the work; his focused and authoritative delivery draws listeners into the story and earns their trust. A Viking hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 3). (Aug.)
Michiko Kakutani
Makes for engaging reading - for both politics addicts interested in small new details and the more casual reader interested in a broad, savvy overview of the run-up to a historic election.
The New York Times
Randy James
Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson ... capture the momentous contest in a polished account refreshingly free of last year's breathless sound bites, pundit insta-reaction or fixation on trifling gaffes ... an evenhanded and comprehensive account of the race....
Time
Kirkus Reviews
A superior piece of political reportage and interpretation by Washington Post writer Balz (co-author: Storming the Gates: Protest Politics and the Republican Revival, 1996) and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and historian Johnson (Journalism/Univ. of Maryland; The Age of Anxiety: McCarthyism to Terrorism, 2005, etc.). By this account, the 2008 presidential campaign began in 2005 "Though George W. Bush no longer was on the ballot," write the authors, "his shadow hovered over all that followed." One of the things that undid Republican candidate John McCain, they note, was his firm support for the deeply unpopular Iraq War, support that he acknowledged as a political liability. It didn't help that McCain had gotten ever closer to Bush, and that his campaign had adopted Rovian tactics that were nasty and often unfair, both to primary opponents such as Mitt Romney and to his Democratic foe, Barack Obama. Meanwhile, the likely Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, made several critical errors during the campaign, many of which would seem to fall under the rubric of underestimating both Obama and the mood of the electorate, which wanted real change. There are a few surprises here, among them the authors' careful exposition of how McCain came to choose Sarah Palin. One motivation was youth, another folksiness in the wake of McCain's inability to remember how many residences he had-which ruled out Romney as running mate, since, in a time of economic turmoil, "Republicans could not present voters with nominees who between them owned nearly a dozen homes." Though Balz and Johnson do not write with the intimacies of Timothy Crouse or the lunacies of Hunter Thompson, their account is engrossingall the same. Although we all know how things turned out, the authors know how to work a cliffhanger, and, as they effectively demonstrate, things could have turned out differently at any number of turns. Essential for watchers of politics and a model for similar electoral analyses in the future. Agent: Flip Brophy/Sterling Lord Literistic
The Barnes & Noble Review
Political junkies who've had to get by lately on stories of stalled health care reform, used car trade-ins, and beer at the White House will find the fix they crave in The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election. Veteran Washington Post political reporter Dan Balz and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Haynes Johnson team up for this exhaustively researched, objective, and lively account of the journey from the New Hampshire primary to Inauguration Day. Focusing on the campaigns of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain, the authors show how the unlikely, inspiring, and downright annoying pieces of the marathon contest came together. Don't look for newsmaking revelations. This book is about perspective. The authors -- who in addition to quoting all the key players draw on unnamed sources and leaked memos and emails -- do succeed in exposing some private, telling moments. They show Clinton informing her campaign manager (and longtime friend) Patti Solis Doyle by email that she's being pushed aside. In another email, Sarah Palin gleefully agrees to give a speech accusing Obama of hanging out with terrorists. "Yes, yes, yes," she writes. "Pls let me say this!!!" For the most part, Obama and his team come off looking focused and cohesive (a portrayal consistent with that in Richard Wolff's election book, Renegade). Meanwhile, infighting and strategic blunders continually trip up his more experienced rivals. The authors even give a plausible answer to the question many have asked since McCain tapped Palin as his running mate: "What was he thinking?" --Karen Holt
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781455817665
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 8/28/2012
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 7.12 (w) x 6.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Dan Balz is the lead political reporter for The Washington Post. He has also served as the paper's national editor, political editor, and White House correspondent.

Haynes Johnson is a Pulitzer Prize winner and the author of fourteen books, five of them national bestsellers. He holds the Knight Chair in Journalism at the University of Maryland.

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Table of Contents

To the Reader xiii

Takeoff 1

Book 1 They're Off

1 Obama 17

2 Johnnie Boy 35

3 Hillary 45

Book 2 The People

4 "Very Scary Times" 57

Book 3 The Democrats

5 Hillary for President 71

6 The Unraveling 89

7 Iowa: Round One 100

8 Iowa: Round Two 111

9 Five Days in New Hampshire 129

10 Disintegration 146

11 An Uncivil War 155

12 Clash of Dynasties 169

13 King Caucus 179

14 The Fighter 190

15 Politics in Black and White 200

16 Over the Top 215

Book 4 The Republicans

17 Looking for Reagan 227

18 Prisoner of War 235

19 The Implosion 247

20 No Surrender 260

21 Can Anybody Play This Game? 269

22 Phoenix Rising 278

Book 5 The Election

23 America: Decision Time 289

24 Citizen of the World 299

25 Mile High in Denver 314

26 Palinmania 325

27 Collapse 345

28 Endgame 353

29 President-elect 368

30 Interlude 376

Epilogue: The Inauguration 387

Afterword to the Paperback Edition 391

Acknowledgments 403

Notes and Sources 405

Index 413

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