The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election [NOOK Book]


“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 ...

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The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election

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“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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

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

"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

"With the most comprehensive and demanding analytics of a wide array of data, Sides and Vavreck cut through many of the myths of the 2012 campaign. . . . Reading The Gamble, I'm pulled in two directions. There is an excitement that comes with the clarity of very smart and skilled professionals working through data and presenting an overwhelmingly compelling case. That's balanced with a maddening sense of frustration that so much blood, sweat, tears, and treasure was put into an endeavor that was likely predetermined by forces out of anyone's control. . . . Read [it]. You'll be glad you did."--Stuart Stevens, Daily Beast

"The discounting of campaign drama has more recently been taken to a new level by political scientists John Sides and Lynn Vavreck in The Gamble, which might have been subtitled Nothing to See Here, Folks. . . . Sides and Vavreck take the provocative but stimulating route of considering every explanation of the outcome other than the 'fundamentals' (basically, the power of incumbency and acceptably positive economic trends and conditions) and exploding each with varying quantities of empirical dynamite."--Ed Kilgore, Washington Monthly

"Without a doubt the most provocative book is The Gamble by Sides and Vavreck."--Ed Kilgore, Washington Monthly
"A necessary corrective to the personality-driven and hyperventilating accounts of presidential campaigns driven by a news media out to sell half-baked narratives. . . . Eminently readable."--Rick Hasen, Slate

"The Gamble is political analysis done properly, a serious challenge to journalists and pundits. And it suggests that the politics that works is politics done properly, that produces real improvements for people in their daily lives."--Daniel Finkelstein, The Times

"Probably the most successful attempt to integrate political science and narrative to date. . . . If you really want to understand the 2012 elections, you should rely on The Gamble."--Sean Trende, Real Clear Books

"What really mattered in last year's elections? George Washington University professor John Sides and UCLA professor Lynn Vavreck, in a remarkably fast turnaround for an academic work, applied social science to the developments of last year's presidential election in The Gamble. It turns out that the events journalists described in real time (including this one) weren't as important as they were made out to be. And Sides and Vavreck provide an important reality check that observers should heed before the daily doings of 2016 consume us all."--Steven Shepard, National Journal

"The Gamble is a mine of information about why the result of the election was apparent to said psephologists as far back as November 2011. . . . This is a scientific book. As the publication blurb states, 'other books may tell you what the candidates did and why, but this book tells you whether what they did actually mattered.' In that respect The Gamble pays off."--Simon Burns, MP, Total Politics

Library Journal
Barack Obama won the 2012 presidential election because of a slightly improving economy, the advantage of incumbency, and a better get-out-the-vote operation. There, you've now been saved the time of reading this 350-page explanation. Sides (political science, George Washington Univ.) and Vavreck (political science & communications, Univ. of California, Los Angeles) present countless polling numbers, quantitative analysis of news media coverage, and bountiful repetition—all contributing to a dull read. The authors point out that despite the $2.3 billion spent by Mitt Romney and Obama throughout 2012, polls at the beginning of the year showed results almost identical to what actually occurred in November. So one is left thinking, why bother overanalyzing a campaign and election process that had so little impact on the result? VERDICT One might assume that such a title would be of value to ardent political junkies, but the events are so fresh in our memories that there is little unfamiliar here to those who closely followed the election. However, the work may have some value for historians a few years hence. In the introduction, the authors state that, like the election, the book was a gamble for them and the publisher. For the most part, they lost.—Robert B. Slater, Stroudsburg, PA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400848003
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Course Book
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 305,132
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

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.
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Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables ix
Foreword by Charles T. Myers xiii
Acknowledgments xv
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
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