Four years ago Mark Halperin and John Heilemann published the best-selling book, Game Change, an inside look at the 2008 presidential race. It was a fascinating description of what went on behind the scenes to make or break the candidates. It is not surprising that the two authors joined forces again to write a sequel for 2012.
Their effort this time around produced Double Down: Game Change 2012 which surprisingly ended up being even more intriguing than 2008. The last time around we had both major political parties involved in mad scrambles for their parties’ nominations. We also had the spectacle of the first-ever African American presidential nominee and a lightening-rod political newcomer for vice-president. But somehow the 2012 contest provided a better narrative.
Perhaps it’s because the contest was always in doubt. In 2008 Barack Obama rode a wave of excitement while John McCain constantly battled from behind. The election appeared to be a foregone conclusion. In 2012 Obama was a known figure with a record that was open to criticism. The Republicans’ choice, Mitt Romney, emerged as a battered but successful nominee from a vicious primary fight who never doubted he would win the general election.
Unless you lived in a cave somewhere the book obviously provides no suspense as to the outcome of the race but the frantic pace and in-fighting among the campaign organizations are illuminating. Anyone who thinks that truth, honesty, and integrity are the surest paths to victory has never been involved in a political campaign.
The best way to read Double Down is to suspend your own personal political beliefs and party affiliations and just base your opinions on personality, character, and how the candidates present themselves. You can then understand why Obama is currently dropping in the poles, Romney is seen as a sore loser, and Congress has an approval rating of nine percent.