How Barack Obama Won: A State-by-State Guide to the Historic 2008 Presidential Election (Vintage)
How Barack Obama Won: A State-by-State Guide to the Historic 2008 Presidential Election (Vintage)

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How Barack Obama Won¡ªby one of the most lauded political journalists of our time, and one of the most respected pollsters in the business¡ªgives us not only the inside state-by-state guide to how Obama achieved his victory, but also the essential toolbox for understanding the political implications of the 2008 presidential election¡ªwhere the country stands vis-¨¤-vis Red and Blue states, where it currently is and is headed politically, and whether a political realignment has taken place.

The book features an introduction by Chuck Todd, putting the 2008 presidential election in political and demographic perspective, even as it reveals national trends. The final electoral map will appear in the front matter, as will unexpected "fun facts." The book is divided into four parts, each of which proceeds alphabetically state by state: Battleground States (e.g., Colorado, Florida, Idaho); Emerging Battleground States (e.g., Arizona, Georgia, Montana); Receding Battleground States (e.g., Michigan, Pennsylvania); Red and Blue States (e.g., Idaho and Mississippi, California and New York).

The votes in each state for Obama and McCain are broken down by percentage according to gender, age, race, party, religious affiliation, education, household income, size of city, and according to views about the most important issue (the economy, terrorism, Iraq, energy, healthcare), the future of the economy (worried, not worried) and the war in Iraq (approve, disapprove). Comparative figures for the 2004 Bush¨CKerry election are provided. Each state profile is comprised of a table of numbers¡ªwith crucial lines highlighted¡ªand analysis. From the book's treasury of facts you will learn about:

First Time Voters: The ratio of first-time to previous voters was identical to the 2004 split. Eleven percent (11%) of the electorate voted for the first time in 2004 and 2008. In 2008 70% voted for Obama whereas in 2004 only 53% voted for Kerry.

White Voters: Obama won the white vote in 18 states and the District of Columbia: CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, IL, IA, ME, MA, MI, MN, NH, NY, OR, RI, WA, WI and VT. Obama received less than 35% of the white vote in 13 states, with Louisiana (14%), Mississippi (11%) and Alabama (10%) picking up the rear.

The Bush Factor: With the exception of Missouri (which barely went to McCain), Obama won every state where Bush's approval rating was below 35% in the exit polls; he lost every state where Bush's approval rating was above 35%. Bush's approval rating was highest in Utah (47%), which supported McCain by a 29 point margin, and lowest in Washington,D.C. (8%), where McCain received only 7% of the vote.

Florida: Votes for McCain were 25,000 fewer than for Bush in 2004; Obama's exceeded Kerry's by 540,000.

Ohio: Votes for Obama were 34,000 fewer than for Kerry in 2004; McCain's, however, were 350,000 short of Bush's.

By the way, since 1928 there has not been a winning Republican presidential/vice-presidential ticket without a Bush or Nixon.

Customer Reviews:

  • ... The Best!!!
    Book was received quickly and in excellent shape, as usual. is absolutely the BEST!!!...more info
  • Good Summary
    In the rush to get Obama books out before the inauguration, "A Long Time Coming" and "How Barack Obama Won" stand up to more scrutiny than most. Mr. Todd's and Mr. Gawisier's book is both a micro and macro look at the 2008 election. The book starts out slow, making the claim that 2008 could signal the end of `20 years of political chaos' as the authors put it. One may find this to be a rather dubious claim because the facts bear out that since 1988, Republicans have won three out of the last five Presidential elections and since 1994 to 2006 have dominated both houses of Congress. Despite this rather slow start, the authors then analyze the early part of the election, in which the early `frontrunners' struggle to find a message, and, in turn, opened themselves up to insurgency candidates. The simple fact of the matter is that someone had to win the Republican nomination, and the candidate that made the least amount of mistakes ultimately did that. Giuliani focused too much on Florida. Huckabee didn't have enough centrist pull, and Romney appeared to be insincere, and by process of elimination, you had John McCain. Since his campaign essentially did nothing right except be the last person standing, by the time he met Obama, it was almost a fait accompli that his campaign was doomed. On the other hand, after fighting off the Clinton machine from Iowa to Puerto Rico to California, the Obama campaign was battle tested and ready. The authors stress that the Obama candidacy was not a fait accompli against Clinton, but Obama took advantage of the fact that the Democractic primaries had proportional awarding of delegates based on the voting, so after Super Tuesday it just came down to a matter of cold hard arithmetic that eventually doomed the Clinton campaign. "Had the Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania contests been held in February, and Virginia, Wisconsin, and Mississippi in May, there may have been another nominee." Of course that counterfactual scenario didn't happen and after Obama was toughned up by Clinton, taking on a dysfunctional McCain organization seemed like kid's play. While the McCain campaign may have staggered the Obama campaign a couple times (like a Guerilla fighter as Mr. Brokaw says in this book), the economic collapse, and the unpopularity of the Republican brand made it so that even a generic Democratic candidate (read: John Kerry) may have been triumphant in November. After their rather succinct analysis of the election, the authors go on into a state-by-state survey of voting behavior in 2008. At this point, the book became somewhat of a drag after reading the chapter on the battleground states, because when a state is solidly blue or red, what else is there to talk about? However, in the next election cycle, I plan on keeping this book with its great statistical information to see if 2008 was indeed a watershed year or just an aberration in a center right country.

    ...more info
  • How Barack Obama Won
    This book by Chuck Todd of NBC news gives us a very detailed understanding of the statistics from each state. I read my own state and several others that I was particularly interested in. I am keeping this book to refer to in the 2010 elections and in the 2012 elections. The population is mobile so that will affect results as well as the age of residents and how particular age groups have thrived in the years since 2008. This book shows us how really different state populations are.
    ...more info
  • How Barack Obama Won
    I have always been interested in everything that Chuck Todd has spoken about,especially since the time the elections started heating up(was that about three yrs ago,lol),anyway I found it amazing that a book about one election could be such an interesting read,Chuck needs to keep writing books....more info
  • Interesting numbers, excellent overview
    The Amazon reviewers have done a great job describing the basic thrust of this book: a drill down state by state, voter characteristic by characteristic, to help get a handle on the Presidential results. All fascinating stuff for people who like numbers.

    Even better, the authors provide excellent textual summaries of what happened and why. They point out that it will probably take 50 years before we really know, but in the meantime, this book makes excellent reading:

    "The long march of the Hillary Clinton candidacy shaped much of the presidential fields for both parties. The Republicans who announced in 2008 all made their cases within the framework of challenging Hillary. In fact, it was Hillary's presence on the Democratic side that gave Rudy Giuliani the opportunity to be taken seriously by Republicans as a 2008 presidential candidate. As for the Democrats, consider that many an analyst and media critic like to talk about how wrong so-called conventional wisdom was during the 2008 campaign. But much of it was right. One early piece of such wisdom was that the Democratic primary campaign would be a primary within the primary between all the Democrats not named Clinton to establish an alternative to Hillary.

    This sub-Democratic primary, which started in earnest after the 2004 presidential election, looked as if it was going to be a campaign between a lot of white guys and Washington insiders looking for their last chance at the brass ring. Familiar faces like Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, and Bill Richardson must have thought to themselves, "If I could only get into a one-on-one with Hillary, I could beat her." Some new names were also seriously considering a run, like Virginia Governor Mark Warner and Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. None of these potential candidates scared the Clinton camp, because they all were just conventional enough that Hillary's ability to put together a base of women and African-Americans would be sufficient to achieve the Democratic nomination."

    This is a very helpful overview of the amazing political developments over the past 20 years or so, well written, and not only for statisticians.

    Robert C. Ross 2009...more info
  • Why Voters Chose Obama
    To discover who voted for Barack Obama and why, a reader could do no better than look at this report by NBC's Chuck Todd and Sheldon Gawiser. Their investigation was based on exit polling, supplemented by telephone interviewing of absentee and early voters.

    Obama's campaign demonstrated far better organization than McCain's. Of particular interest was Obama's success with those Hispanic voters who had voted for Bush four years earlier. Obama was also quite popular among youths, although rather surprisingly their turnout did not differ significantly from youth turnouts during past elections. Especially noteworthy were the inroads Obama made among suburbanites and moderates. Middle-of-the-road voters moved Democratic in considerable numbers. A major concern of voters was the economy,overshadowing the Iraq War,and Obama and Democrats were more successful than Republicans in convincing voters of competence in handling the economy effectively.

    The authors concluded that Obama's victory set the stage for Democratic dominance for several years. Only time can prove their view. Unanticipated occurances can easily alter political events. Democrats could be hurt by various situations, such as a further decline in the economy, a major international disaster, a Democratic successor lacking Obama's charisma, and Republican success in appealing to independents. Nevertheless, the authors presented strong evidence that Republicans will face high odds for many years in their quest to regain power. It is hard to see how they could dislodge Obama.

    Anyone interested in politics will find the book fascinating, and it will be a useful tactical guide for both parties during future elections. Obama's presidency will draw the attention of many people over the years, and all will have to give attention to this study....more info
  • a must have for political junkies
    This is like a primer on how elections work, how demographics break down and what the future political landscape looks like. The first section, a recap of the campaign season, is a great can't make this stuff up! The second section, which they break down the results state by state is a bit dry but political junkies will lap up every word! I know I did!! ...more info
  • Great For Political Numbers Junkies
    If you're interested in the voting characteristics of the states, then you'll really like this book. Todd and Geiser give a pretty objective re-cap of the primary and general election campaigns in the introduction, and then go state-by-state, grouping them into "battlegrounds," "receding battlegrounds," "emerging battlegrounds," and "red/blue" states. Democrats will enjoy this more than Republicans, since the authors continually point out the demographic and ideological trends that are moving in the democrats favor. To their credit, though, they point out how this movement may be unique to this election or ultimately unsustainable, and does point out republican advantages in certain areas.

    Mostly, the analysis is spot on, and they reveal some interesting characteristics and patterns that even a junkie like me didn't catch. Still, I have a couple issues with their analysis.

    First, the youth vote. The authors say it was "overrated" for the most part and only made the difference in 2 states. They say this due to the fact that their turnout rate only increased by 1%, which didn't meet the inflated expectations of some. However, Obama won this vote by 66-32. No prior candidate, in the history of exit polling, EVER won any age cohort by such a large margin. The closest was Reagan in 1984, but by 20, not 34 points. Clearly, this indicates that republicans have some extremely serious problems with younger people that have only gotten worse since 2000. George W. Bush may have turned an entire generation away from his party.

    Second, the 5 "emerging" battleground states. Georgia, Nebraska, and Texas don't belong here. If Obama couldn't win GA in this environment, there is little chance for democrats down the road. GA has been trending red the last decade. And Texas's status is that it "might" be a battleground in 10 years. Well, by that logic so might California, since political fortunes will certainly change in a decade.

    Also, the authors are of the belief that the Republicans' problem is that their brand of conservatism no longer works well outside the south. They content that republicans must become more moderate to gain back footholds in the west, northeast, and midwest. I think this is questionable, since social issues like abortion and gay marriage were not really a part of the 2008 campaign, so it's impossible to judge whether or not such "moral values" were being rejected or not.

    To me, it's more a problem with their marketing/branding techniques than their beliefs. Their essential messages of low taxes, low spending, smaller government, strong defense, and personal responsibility have all enjoyed popularity throughout America's history. It's just that they no longer know how to communicate this effectively.

    Finally, in their descriptions of the campaign, the authors were far too generous in describing the effect of Sarah Palin as McCain's VP choice. Saying that she "stumbled" in some interviews is far too nice. She was incoherent. Then she became a polarizing figure. She may not have lost the election for McCain but she did not help one bit. Anywhere she might have helped were states McCain was already going to win.

    There was a fairly large number of grammatical errors peppered throughout the book. Indicative of sloppy editing, but judging from the displays at the bookstore, it looks like publishers wanted to get a slew of Obama-themed books out for the inauguration.

    Overall, though, a good book for a fair price. It's a quick read, and an excellent reference for political watchers. I recommend it. ...more info
  • Great Book for Political Junkies
    This book is a little different than most of the other Obama books out right now. It gives a break down of all the number crunching, polling, demographics, and strategy that surrounds the number of votes. It's not touchy-feely, making it a great book for real information about winning a campaign. This book should be read by anyone who plans to run for office or work on a political campaign....more info
  • Could have been more detailed
    I do like to read a good statistical analysis, which is what this book is. But it could have been better. Unfortunately the tables used differ greatly between states, seldom providing the same information. For example, under religion, Jewish is never listed although important in several states. There is only one comment in the overall analysis that 75% of Jews voted for Obama. "Others" and non-believers are seldom listed. Asians are only listed once, under Hawaii, though they are an important group elsewhere. Native Americans are never mentioned. Admittedly they are an overall statistical minority, but important in certain states. In the Dakotas, Montana, Arizona and New Mexico where they dominate certain counties (see MSNBC election site by county) they were overwhelmingly for Obama.
    Also there is not enough analysis of the Southern and racial factors. Todd mentions the counties in the South where McCain did better than Bush did in 2004. There can be no question as to why this is true. While not all Republicans are racist, most racists are Republicans as are "neo-Confederates". Blatant racism is mostly gone, but a more insidious rscism was present and not given enough coverage. The Party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt has become the Party of Jefferson Davis and Elmer Gantry. That is why much of the rest of the country is steering shy of them. I would imagine that the stronger appeal of older whites for McCain also can fall in this category to some extent. Not that they favored McCain but that they could not bring themselves to vote for a black man. I have a friend from Baltimore who fits this category.
    "White" is too broad a classification any more. There is not much in common between a Maine lobster fisherman and a Mississippi good ole boy; Between an "ethnic" White in the rust belt and a Texas cowboy want to be.
    Overall a good book with some very good analysis. I enjoy listening to Mr. Todd on MSNBC and hope he continues. WOuld like to see him rework this book with more detail....more info


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