cover image The Battle for America, 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election

The Battle for America, 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election

Daniel J. Balz, Haynes Bonner Johnson. Viking, $29.95 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-670-02111-6

Political reporter Balz and author Johnson (The Age of Anxiety: McCarthyism to Terrorism) have produced an exhaustive yet fascinating review of the 2008 election, from the 2006 contending lineup through the 2009 inauguration, sure to catch the interest of those who follow politics, from Capitol Hill on down. For readers who think the news media's wall-to-wall coverage was plenty, this behind-the-scenes study is a sharp reminder of everything left out in their horse-race reporting: discussion of the issues, citizens' reactions, the real influence of President Bush, and the complex mechanics (strategy, missteps, serendipity) of the campaign trail. Without taking sides, Balz and Johnson review the numerous candidates, and the many topics at play-the Iraq war, the economy, health care and various personal concerns-while extracting cogent lessons from a season that became more an ""endurance test"" than anything. Addressing perennial flaws of the election process-including the prominence of money, race and gender discrimination, the impact of nonstop media coverage, and the government's role in the outcome-Balz and Johnson also label this past election one ""of great consequence and a dramatic turn in direction,"" and illustrate why.