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“The definitive account of what really happened and what really mattered in the campaign.”

This week I will be writing some posts about a book UCLA political scientist Lynn Vavreck and I just published on the 2012 presidential election — The Gamble. The goal of the book was to write an account of the presidential election with a political scientist’s mindset but a journalist’s metabolism. The book is informed by political science and by extensive quantitative data about voters, news outlets, campaign ads, field offices, and more. But it was also written more quickly — and in a more accessible style — than the average academic book so that its findings might have more impact on explanations and interpretations of the election.

Here is what some people have said about the book:

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight:

The 2012 election was when ‘Moneyball’ defeated ‘Game Change’ — and Sides and Vavreck explain why political scientists and number-crunchers were able to forecast the results well in advance, while the conventional wisdom was so often wrong. The Gamble is crisply written, comprehensively researched, and carefully argued. It provides the definitive account of what really happened and what really mattered in the campaign.

Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker:

Sides and Vavreck have done more to bridge the worlds of campaign reporting and political science than any other academics working today. The Gamble, their penetrating and accessible study of the 2012 presidential election, is mandatory reading for anyone who cares about American politics.

The Washington Post‘s own Ezra Klein:

John Sides and Lynn Vavreck have done something remarkable: They’ve managed to not just report on the 2012 election in real time, but research it in real time, too. They’ve solved the problem that bedevils those of us in journalism: How to actually know what you’re talking about when you’re talking about something as fluid and fast-moving as a presidential election. This book should change how we cover campaigns.

Sasha Issenberg, author of the excellent The Victory Lab:

Sides and Vavreck have invented an important new genre of campaign book, perfect for our age of accelerated media. Observers of American politics will relish The Gamble for its fresh research and authoritative analysis, even if my fellow journalists resent it for demonstrating how often we got the story wrong.

Yale political scientist Alan Gerber:

In their lively and insightful account of what really happened in the 2012 presidential campaign, Sides and Vavreck replace wild conjecture about gaffes and undecided voters with hard data and broad context. If you want to understand the dynamics of presidential campaigns, turn off the cable shows and read this book.

Vanderbilt political scientist (and Monkey Cage contributor) Larry Bartels:

Conventional campaign books portray a fantasy world shaped by brilliant strategists and dramatic events. Sides and Vavreck have invented a new genre–in-the-moment electoral analysis grounded in first-rate political science. Read their book to understand why Barack Obama was reelected, and get your fantasy fix from Game of Thrones.

David Lauter in the Los Angeles Times:

Sides and Vavreck offer a detailed, quantified description of the battlefield — an effort to provide political science insight in real time.

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution:

Good, sane tome on how the fundamentals matter.

Gregg Easterbrook at ESPN:

In The Gamble, two super-smart thinkers lay out moneyball politics for anyone to understand.

The book is available on purchase on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble. For more information, you can read the first chapter (pdf), an excerpt from our chapters on the Republican primary at Salon, and UCLA’s press release about the book.  If you want a bite-sized tidbit, here is Tyler Cowen’s one-sentence review in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine. If you’re interested in the process of writing the book, Lynn and I talk about that here and especially here.

And if you’d like to talk with Lynn and me about the book, we’re doing a live chat today from 3 to 4 p.m. Eastern.

Stay tuned for more from the book this week.

John Sides is an Associate Professor of Political Science at George Washington University. He specializes in public opinion, voting, and American elections.



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