The 2012 Presidential Campaign: A Communication Perspective. Edited by Robert E. Denton, Jr. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. 202 pp.
In his preface to The 2012 Presidential Campaign, Robert E. Denton reflects that he has edited a book on the presidential election for every campaign dating back to 1992. Each of these elections, he argues, was both unique and very much the same as preceding contests. The chapters selected for the 2012 iteration reflect that dialectic--the contributors both explore subject matter that is particular to this cycle and place the election in appropriate historical context. Some of the chapters are exemplary, most are useful, and as a collection the edited volume holds up nicely alongside its predecessors in Denton's series.
The book begins with Rachel L. Holloway's analysis of the nominating conventions, which is one of the strongest chapters in the book. She provides a convincing narration of the recent historical competition between the Democrats and Republicans over the framing of the American Dream and, in doing so, demonstrates a tug-of-war between Reagan's individualism and Obama's communitarian alternative. Her analysis works not only as an explanation for the convention rhetoric, but also as a broader lens to understand the ideological stakes of the 2012 election. In the second chapter, Gwen Brown continues the analysis of the nominating conventions by looking at the addresses given by candidate wives. She adopts a useful framework to consider the unique constraints faced by this sort of speaker--though when she expands her discussion to the spouses' role in the convention video, the connection with the spousal speeches might not be as complimentary as Brown intended. Meanwhile, in one of the strongest chapters in the collection, Craig Allen Smith convincingly debunks the pernicious myth that the election was Romney's to lose. This chapter draws on Allan Lichtman's "keys to the White House" (Keys to the White House: A Surefire Guide to Predicting the Next President [Rowman and Littlefield, 2008]), the Pew Research Center's political typology of American citizens (http://www.people-press.org/typology/), and a tipping-point analysis of electoral votes to illustrate the extent to which Obama truly was a decisive favorite to win reelection. Smith then argues that if Obama had adopted a less partisan campaign strategy, he might have been able to win an even larger victory.
The compilation also contains...