Somewhat dated at this point – after all, the winner of the 2012 election is well known – The Candidate is a necessarily dry but curious read. In many respects, you can think of it as a business/self-help book, and perhaps apply the knowledge and lessons within in a wider context : is not “The Candidate” merely the man who is applying for one of the biggest jobs in the world? One where everyone is on the interview panel? That will be the one.
Using three specific elections – 1976, 1991, and 2008 – Popkin analyses the main candidates approaches, highlighting common themes in their respective failure and successes – blooded with in depth discussions with many of the key players on both the winning and losing sides of each campaign trail, as well as personal experience of being an embedded reporter in campaigns. Aside from the three main campaigns, he also draws on the other elections of the past forty years where possible, using anecdote and interview, as well as impartial observations to deduce how the 'electorate' – a vague mass of hundreds of millions of people – think, and how the success lies in gaming every argument, counter-argument, and counter-counter-argument, knowing when to defend, when to deflect, and when to attack, as well as how to project an image and maintain it. Overall, a fascinating and indepth work that is, by virtue of the 2012 election, both already obselete and historically valuable.