Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime - John Heilemann, Mark Halperin This book is in the tradition of Theodore White's great Making of a President series, which I devoured years ago as soon as they appeared, on the inside story of presidential campaigns. This one is just as good, high praise, indeed.

Another great example of how we are failed by the media and need to learn details a coujple of years after the fact. Fascinating details such as how many Senators were urging Obama to run. The field looked weak. Edwards was considered shallow, Gofre was not interested, no one else particularly strong around except Hillary and they were terrified because if she had gotten the nomination, all the increasingly common rumors of Bill's continued infidelities would surface. Not to mention her vote on the war. It was also clear that her campaign staff, while very loyal, was not as good as one would have liked.

Clearly, the Clinton campaign presumed to believe the nomination was theirs, and Hillary had even put together a transition staff already in October of 2007. The only thing, she believed standing in their way was Iowa, and they didn't expect to lose that state. Axelrod believed correctly that Mark Penn, Clinton's campaign manager, was locked into a strategy borrowed from the 1990 succesful campaign and wqould be unable to change even though times had changed drstically.

Iowa was a game changer: Obama slaughterd the opposition and Huckabee came out of nowhere to beat the other front-runners. Clinton had spent more than $23 million on Iowa, more than $500,00 per vote obtained. It was also becoming abundantly clear that two major factors were preventing Hillary from doing better: her dysfunctional campaign that she seemed unable to organize or control; and Bill, an out-of-control ex-president who could not bear the idea of being out of the limelight. Hillary had difficulty dealing with personnel issues and was reluctant to deal with problems directly (one wonders how that might have translated to her administration had she won.) In fact, when a staffer asked her to deal with Bill and control him, she wanted to delegate that to someone else, arguing she couldn't do it.

All of the candidates assiduously courted the Kennedy endorsement. They had long ties to the Clintons, but Edward Kennedy and his family were charmed by the similarities Obama had to their fallen icon JFK: the hope, the charisma, the intelligence, and wonderful speech-making. Bill Clinton, on one of his trips to the Kennedy compound to gain support, nailed his own -- and his wife's -- chances for success, by remarking during a discussion with Teddy refering to Obama's age, and perhaps totally losing any subconscious symbolism, that "just a few years ago, that boy would have been serving us the coffee." That remark totally offended Edward Kennedy.

Meanwhile, the McCain campaign was suffering from a candidate who wasn't that popular with the Repoublican base and who knew it. "Why would I want to be the leader of a party of such assholes," he said. His stance on amnesty for undocumented workers was anathema to the right, and he had difficulty mustering any kind of enthusiam for a protracted campaign especially after what the Bush folks had done to him in South Carolina in 2000. At one point during a debate prep session, McCain was asked to explain the difference between same-sex marriage and civil unions. Tired of everything, he shouted, "I don't give a fuck." The choice of Palin was a last ditch, unplanned, and very unprepared for attempt at revival. He worked to some extent, energizing the base. But it also lost support for McCain from moderate Republicans, many of them long-time supporters of McCain, who saw the move as a slap in the face. They viewed her as clearly unprepared to be president, and, as one large campaign donor and long-time supporter of McCain explained his switch to Obama simply by saying: "Palin."