The Obama Victory: How Media, Money, and Message Shaped the 2008 Election

The Obama Victory: How Media, Money, and Message Shaped the 2008 Election

The Obama Victory: How Media, Money, and Message Shaped the 2008 Election

The Obama Victory: How Media, Money, and Message Shaped the 2008 Election


Barack Obama's stunning victory in the 2008 presidential election will go down as one of the more pivotal in American history. Given America's legacy of racism, how could a relatively untested first-term senator with an African father defeat some of the giants of American politics?

In The Obama Victory, Kate Kenski, Bruce Hardy, and Kathleen Hall Jamieson draw upon the best voter data available, The National Annenberg Election Survey, as well as interviews with key advisors to each campaign, to illuminate how media, money, and messages shaped the 2008 election. They explain how both sides worked the media to reinforce or combat images of McCain as too old and Obama as not ready; how Obama used a very effective rough-and-tumble radio and cable campaign that was largely unnoticed by the mainstream media; how the Vice Presidential nominees impacted the campaign; how McCain's age and Obama's race affected the final vote, and much more.

Briskly written and filled with surprising insights, The Obama Victory goes beyond opinion to offer the most authoritative account available of precisely how and why Obama won the presidency.


From among the hundreds of thousands of words he spoke in public in the fall of 2008, we think we know which ones Republican Party nominee John McCain would take back if given the chance. We also have a pretty good guess about the sentence his Democratic counterpart, Barack Obama, would rewind if opportunity permitted. Our choice on the Republican side occurred on September 15 as the country was plummeting into the worst recession in recent memory. On that date, the Arizona senator said, “The fundamentals of the economy are strong.” For the Democrat, the moment occurred days before the final presidential debate, when, in a chance encounter in the crucial battleground state of Ohio, the Illinois senator told a plumber, “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody” Each ill-phrased opinion elicited hours of commentary on cable, in broadcast news, and on the pages of the nation’s newspapers and found an afterlife in debates, ads, e-mails, late-night comedy, and on YouTube. Each altered its creator’s prospects, if, in one case, only for a short time.

From the Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s “God damn America” to Tina Fey’s “I can see Russia from my house,” the 2008 election brimmed with attentiongrabbing communication. “For 20 years, Barack Obama followed a preacher of hate,” alleged an independent expenditure ad. “Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim,” asserted a viral e-mail. “How many houses does he own?” asked a message sponsored by the campaign of Democratic Party nominee Barack Obama. “John McCain says he can’t even remember anymore.” “Erratic,” said an Obama spokesperson of the Arizonan. “A celebrity but not ready to lead,” responded the Republicans. “Likely to die in office, leaving the country in the . . .

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