Missed Opportunity: Gore, Incumbency, and Television in Election 2000. E. D. Dover. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002. 236 pp. $88.95 hbk.
The 2000 Presidential Campaign: A Communication Perspective. Robert E. Denton, Jr., ed. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002. 304 pp. $29.95 pbk.
Campaign 2000: A Functional Analysis of Presidential Campaign Discourse. William L. Benoit, John P. McHaIe, Glenn J. Hansen, P. M. Pier, and John P. McGuire. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003. 300 pp. $27.95 pbk.
The Millennium Election: Communication in the 2000 Campaign. Lynda Lee Kaid, John C. Tedesco, Dianne G. Bystrom, and Mitchell S. McKinney, eds. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003. 280 pp. $32.95 pbk.
The nation watched closely as the 2000 presidential election was finally determined by the Supreme Court's 5-to-4 decision. The turmoil of Florida's recount lingers in our minds even now, often overshadowing the impact of political campaigns on election outcomes. In fact, the post-election debacle stole the spotlight from many defining moments of the preelection campaign. The four books reviewed redirect our attention to the preFlorida era where one of the most competitive presidential campaigns in U.S. history took place, an election with many different forms of communication approaches. Even before the Florida recount, the 2000 presidential campaign was historic in several ways. It was expensive and one of the longest, most highly concentrated campaigns ever, resulting in one of the closest presidential races in U.S. history. Collectively, the four books offer detailed descriptive analyses of the election's development as well as systematic evaluations of multiple facets of political communication.
In Missed Opportunity: Gore, Incumbency, and Television in Election 2000, Dover begins with the argument that the strength of incumbency and manner in which news media interpret that strength is a key determinant of an election outcome. His classification of presidential elections into three types aptly profiles modern elections: "elections with strong incumbents," "elections with weak incumbents," and "elections with surrogate incumbents." Placing the 2000 election in the third category, where the presidential party nominates the vice president, Dover takes the reader through day-to-day network coverage to show the context and meaning that news media ascribed to the candidates.
As such, the author assembles evidence that President Clinton overshadowed Gore, Bush received the greatest quantity and quality of media coverage, and Gore's emphasis on being his own man eventually contributed to his defeat. In Missed Opportunity, Dover sharply delineates the dilemma unique to elections with surrogate incumbents and highlights Gore's inability to translate the advantages of incumbency into victory. The descriptive analysis of television networks adequately supports his main points.
Clearly, Missed Opportunity is a must read for those seeking office or managing campaigns of surrogate status or image. The book assists readers in evaluating opportunities and identifying dilemmas that may be posed through vicariously experiencing the 2000 campaign. Although some specific guidelines exist that concern how effectively candidates with surrogate status can use opportunities and deal with dilemmas, learning of Gore's mistakes in Missed Opportunity is highly engaging and useful for similar campaign trails.
In addition to the analysis of the news media's coverage, the book offers the historical and political context of the vice presidency, along with comparisons to previous elections with surrogate incumbents. The book is a valuable resource about previous elections with vice presidents as candidates, such as Richard Nixon in 1960, Hubert Humphrey in 1968, and George H. W. Bush in 1988. It documents similarities and differences from a coherent framework of elections with surrogate incumbents. …