The Audacity To Win

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Questions relating to The Audacity to Win by David Plouffe.


Questions and Answers
  • 1. 

    Before launching his presidential campaign, whose blessing did Obama and his advisors critically seek out?

    • A.

      Howard Dean, former DNC chairman

    • B.

      Al Gore, former vice president

    • C.

      Michelle Obama, current first lady

    • D.

      Jimmy Carter, former president

    • E.

      Jesse Jackson Jr., Congressman from Illinois

    Correct Answer
    C. Michelle Obama, current first lady
    Explanation
    As someone who hadn't spent the bulk of his adult life in politics, Barack Obama was perhaps more wary than many of the toll it would take on his family life. Plouffe writes that he knew the campaign would never get off the ground if Michelle Obama was not fully on board.

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  • 2. 

    What early risk taken by the Obama campaign does Plouffe believe helped set the tone for a different kind of campaign?

    • A.

      Focusing more on the New Hampshire primaries than on the Iowa caucuses.

    • B.

      Eschewing public campaign funds.

    • C.

      Declining an invitation to the first nationally televised debate of the season in Nevada, which all other candidates attended.

    • D.

      Refusing to shake hands with voters at rallies, lest Obama get sick.

    • E.

      Vowing to curtail farm subsidies while campaigning in agriculture-dependent Iowa.

    Correct Answer
    C. Declining an invitation to the first nationally televised debate of the season in Nevada, which all other candidates attended.
    Explanation
    The Obama campaign team knew from the outset that their chances for victory were slim and that they'd need to set themselves apart. An early test came months before the Iowa caucuses, when the bulk of the Democratic field agreed to a forum in Nevada, breaking an earlier pact. Though it would mean missing the first joint appearance between all the candidates, the Obama team chose to remain in Iowa and campaign on the ground. "Most first-time presidential candidates would have folded," Plouffe writes. "It speaks to Obama's discipline that he went along, as well as to his belief that we should try to run our campaign on our own terms."

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  • 3. 

    Which of the following states did Obama not carry in the 2008 Democratic primaries?

    • A.

      Iowa

    • B.

      Colorado

    • C.

      Georgia

    • D.

      Texas

    • E.

      Minnesota

    Correct Answer
    D. Texas
    Explanation
    Obama's loss in Texas dealt a significant, if temporary, blow to the campaign's morale. Though it did not fundamentally change the nature of the race as measured by delegates, winning the state would have likely closed out the race in early March. Instead, it would drag on into the summer.

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  • 4. 

    According to Plouffe, which 2008 Democratic presidential candidate made a backdoor bid to become Obama's VP pick before dropping out of the race himself?

    • A.

      Chris Dodd

    • B.

      John Edwards

    • C.

      Joe Biden

    • D.

      Joe Leiberman

    • E.

      Dennis Kucinich

    Correct Answer
    B. John Edwards
    Explanation
    Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards had a good run as third fiddle in the 2008 Democratic primaries. Though his chances of winning were next to nil after Iowa, he remained in the race and, as Plouffe tells it, attempted to use his position to make a backdoor run at Obama's VP slot. Obama rejected the idea without hesitation.

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  • 5. 

    In late April, when the Democratic primaries were coming to a boil, Obama drew a clear distinction between himself and Hillary Clinton with his stance on what issue?

    • A.

      A health insurance mandate for all Americans.

    • B.

      Legalization of civil unions for gay couples.

    • C.

      Temporary suspension of the federal gasoline tax.

    • D.

      Extension of Bush-era tax cuts for upper income brackets.

    • E.

      House resolution to honor the legacy of baseball great Yogi Berra.

    Correct Answer
    C. Temporary suspension of the federal gasoline tax.
    Explanation
    With gas prices soaring in the summer of 2008, Hillary Clinton and John McCain strongly supported a temporary suspension of a federal tax on gasoline purchases. In a risky move, Obama made a nuanced case against the suspension on the grounds that it would create government shortfalls without providing substantial consumer relief – the position held by most economists. The move paid off, and polls showed voters more sympathetic to Obama.

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  • 6. 

    When first mapping out its general election strategy, which state did the Obama campaign consider critical?

    • A.

      Florida

    • B.

      New Hampshire

    • C.

      Missouri

    • D.

      Ohio

    • E.

      None of the above

    Correct Answer
    E. None of the above
    Explanation
    Conventional presidential campaign wisdom holds that both candidates need to fight tooth and nail for Ohio and Florida. But a tanking economy and deeply unpopular Republican president had affected the public mood, and many of the old rules could not be counted on. Though they wanted and thought they could get a bigger margin, their most cautious strategy was this: hold the 2004 Kerry states and flip Iowa and New Mexico, and the race is in the bag.

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  • 7. 

    Which traditionally Republican state did Obama manage to win in 2008?

    • A.

      Indiana

    • B.

      North Carolina

    • C.

      Colorado

    • D.

      Nevada

    • E.

      All of the above

    Correct Answer
    E. All of the above
    Explanation
    Perhaps the most telling sign of how exceptional the 2008 presidential race was was the number of typically solid Republican states that Obama managed to carry. Obama won all of these, Virginia, part of Nebraska and came surprisingly close in states like Montana and Missouri.

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  • 8. 

    What three names were on Obama's final short list for his vice presidential pick? (Check all three.)

    • A.

      Evan Bayh, senator from Indiana

    • B.

      Hillary Clinton, senator from New York

    • C.

      Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico

    • D.

      Tim Kaine, former governor of Virginia

    • E.

      Joe Biden, former senator from Delaware

    Correct Answer(s)
    A. Evan Bayh, senator from Indiana
    D. Tim Kaine, former governor of Virginia
    E. Joe Biden, former senator from Delaware
    Explanation
    Obama eventually narrowed his veep search down to three experienced politicians, two from key swing states and another known for his foreign policy expertise. Though Obama had considered Hillary Clinton seriously, she did not make the final short list.

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  • 9. 

    According to Plouffe, what was the primary reason Obama decided not to include Hillary Clinton on the ticket?

    • A.

      He felt tensions were still too high after the drawn out primary battle.

    • B.

      He felt there were too many key policy differences between the two, such as on health care reform.

    • C.

      He questioned Clinton's willingness to stick to a consistent campaign message.

    • D.

      Clinton, now secretary of state, had indicated privately that she would be more interested in a cabinet position.

    • E.

      Obama was concerned about the role Bill Clinton might play in the race.

    Correct Answer
    E. Obama was concerned about the role Bill Clinton might play in the race.
    Explanation
    Contrary to some media reports, Obama had actually considered Hillary Clinton quite seriously for his veep pick. Yet while he believed she would bring valuable experience and insight to the White House, he expressed concerns that drama from the Bill Clinton presidency might leak into the race. He ultimately decided picking Hillary was just too risky.

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  • 10. 

    What best summarizes the strategy Obama advised for going after Sarah Palin?

    • A.

      Argue that she is too inexperienced to be so close to the presidency.

    • B.

      Paint her as a hard-line conservative whose views are too extreme for the country at this moment.

    • C.

      Claim that Palin is essentially another helping of George W. Bush.

    • D.

      Draw attention to her pregnant daughter.

    • E.

      Wait it out.

    Correct Answer
    E. Wait it out.
    Explanation
    In Plouffe's account of the campaign, Obama was as skeptical as the next guy about Palin's fitness to be vice president, but he also felt attacking her would only be counterproductive. He believed the best route was to treat her candidacy coolly and let her weaknesses reveal themselves.

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  • 11. 

    As explained by Plouffe, why was the Obama campaign so unprepared to respond the controversy involving Jeremiah Wright's fiery sermons?

    • A.

      They felt it was not appropriate to comment on directly.

    • B.

      They believed Clinton would help tamp down the controversy to prove her commitment to a civil campaign.

    • C.

      They underestimated how quickly such material could spread over the internet.

    • D.

      They had not done very much research on the matter.

    • E.

      Obama had forgotten about the pastor's more fiery sermons.

    Correct Answer
    D. They had not done very much research on the matter.
    Explanation
    In his book, Plouffe acknowledges the campaign erred in doing little preliminary research on Wright and his penchant for provocation. When tapes of his old sermons began appearing on the cable news circuit, the campaign was caught off guard, allowing the issue to become a major controversy.

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  • 12. 

    What does Plouffe say was the Obama campaign's most strategically important gambit?

    • A.

      Not agreeing to a request by John McCain to cancel the first presidential debate.

    • B.

      Creating a wide playing field rather than focusing on a handful of battleground states.

    • C.

      Holding the Democratic convention in Colorado, which had recently become a swing state.

    • D.

      Focusing on economic issues more than foreign affairs.

    • E.

      Bringing younger voters into the process in record numbers.

    Correct Answer
    B. Creating a wide playing field rather than focusing on a handful of battleground states.
    Explanation
    From the very beginning, Plouffe was determined that the Obama campaign not fall into a trap of relying on one or two battleground states for victory. He considered this a major flaw of the 2004 Kerry campaign, which had put all its chips on Ohio. Instead, the Obama team chose to put up a fight in less obvious battlegrounds like Indiana and Nebraska. And it paid off.

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