James A. Thurber is director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies and professor of government at American University. Candice J. Nelson is academic director of the Campaign Management Institute and associate professor of government at American University. David A. Dulio is assistant professor of political science at Oakland University. He is the author of For Better or Worse: How Political Consultants Are Changing Elections in the United States (Suny Press, 2004).
The contributors approach the topic from several different perspectives, including the increasing use of "spin doctors" and the resulting loss of influence of state and national political parties. The book investigates the role of these paid advisers: who they are, what they do and why, and how they feel about their work. The contributors discuss the consultant's relationship with candidates and parties, and analyze the effect of their efforts on election outcome.
Examining a sample of congressional campaigns waged during this important election provides readers with an account of how Republicans were able to make such impressive gains and how Democrats were unable to stem this tide. Adkins and Dulio provide a clear explanation of the macro trends in this election cycle, followed by twelve in depth and fascinating case studies of House and Senate toss up races involving seats held by endangered Democratic incumbents. Framed by a common set of questions and topics—so that they are singing the same song in different voices—each chapter focuses on the micro-level effects active in the individual campaigns. Furthermore, the editors discuss how the 2010 cycle fits into the existing literature on campaigns and elections, conclusions about what we learned in 2010 by addressing these competitive states and districts, and speculation on what might be ahead in 2012.
In addition, the companion website provides instructors with useful teaching tools, including sample assignments and dynamic PowerPoint slides with graphs and videos.
Nelson examines her topic through the metaphor of Chicago's famous Grant Park. During the tumultuous Democratic Party convention of 1968, thousands of young people and African Americans rioted in Grant Park after being excluded from the nomination process. In 2008, on the other hand, thousands again jammed the park, but this time they were celebrating the convincing victory of their first African American president.
A lot had to happen in American politics during that forty-year period before Obama could emerge victoriously from the Windy City. In Grant Park, Nelson explains how changes in technology, finance laws, party rules, political institutions, and the electorate itself produced the stunning turnaround, and how presidential selection might change again heading toward November 2012 and beyond.
"The presidential election of 2012 will bear little resemblance to the 1968 election. Americans will have more opportunities to participate in the election, and the electorate will be more diverse. While the campaign finance system continues to challenge the democratization of presidential elections, the overall picture of presidential elections is one much more democratic than demonstrators faced in Grant Park in the summer of 1968."—From Grant Park