Reliving the excitement of the nearly two years of the campaign was a real pleasure. The public moments described here are all very familiar. Hearing what the campaigners were thinking as they planned and reacted to events was interesting, though much of that was familiar as well. It is a measure of my insatiable appetite that I wished for coverage of more events, the Democratic convention, for example. It was interesting that more of the book described the primaries than the general election.
One theme I noticed was the critical look at the press and the pundits by the campaign. It’s pretty amazing to think that during a debate, George Stephanopoulos asked Obama if he thought Reverend Wright loves American as much as he (Obama) does. Obama stopped watching the cable news shows.
The focus during the primaries on race by the news outlets was relentless. As Wolffe puts it, “Underneath most analysis of Obama’s problems lay a curiously narrow idea of what constituted the white vote. Appalachian voters in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky seemed to rank more highly than white voters elsewhere. For instance, on the same night he lost Kentucky by 36 points, Obama won Oregon by 18 points….[T]here was ample polling to show that gender and age were bigger obstacles to voters than race.”
Shortly after the primaries, the campaign did its only extensive national polling of the entire election. The economy was, even at that point, the most important issue for voters. By “the economy,” the voters meant not just prices and jobs, but a broad range of issues, including energy, health care, and education. The chief pollster, Joel Benenson, said “They linked into the economy for voters. Voters saw those as fundamental linchpins of our economic future from both their personal perspective and business.” Obama wasn’t surprised that the voters were ahead of the politicians on this.
Much of the joy of reading this book is to be reminded that we have a President who is brilliant and is motivated by a desire instilled in him by his mother to improve the lives of people. Her definition of what that constitutes was a very complex and encompassing concept. As long as he hears her voice in his head, we can move in the right direction.
It turns out that Richard Wolffe, who is an MSNBC commentator and Newsweek writer, is half Moroccan and half British and Jewish. Talking about crossing many lines….