cover image The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns

The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns

Sasha Issenberg. Crown, $26 (368p) ISBN 978-0-307-95479-4

Turns out there’s plenty of actual science in political science, and this new book from Issenberg (The Sushi Economy) shows how it’s being deployed with increasing sophistication in nearly every significant election. Also the basis for an aptly titled e-book, Rick Perry and His Eggheads, this bipartisan examination of behavioral science and high-level campaign strategy takes the Moneyball approach to the clashes between polling strategists’ quantitative methodologies of get-out-the vote and the gut-level instincts of old campaigners. Issenberg’s early history of political data collection and data-crunching, from the 1920s to the mid 1960s, is particularly deft. There are closely drawn portraits of generally unknown number crunchers and hidden strategies, including the behavioral insights of Todd Rogers, whose Analyst Institute gave rise to a sophisticated persuasion and get-out-the-vote infrastructure for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, and the approach of Dave Carney, whose explorations of Republican voter behavior guided races from George H.W. Bush’s 1992 loss to Rick Perry’s successful Texas gubernatorial race. Issenberg’s thorough analysis of the transformation of the smoke-filled campaign backroom to a data-rich network would delight a budding political statistician. However, only the most hard-core political junkies will find book-length resonance in discussions of research methods and software development for political ends. Agent: Larry Weissman, Larry Weissman Agency. (Sept.)