There are always lots of books and memoirs about elections, and this book takes the reader through the lens of communications and messaging for the Obama re-election campaign. It's my understanding the author wrote another similar book about the 2008 election, but I haven't read that one yet.
Here, the author talks to the Obama team: David Axlerod, Jim Messina, etc. about the trials and travails of the campaign's messaging and what they wanted to tell the electorate in terms of the economy, their Republican opponent(s), why the President should be re-elected, etc. They were aided, of course, by the technological powerhouse that examined voters to get every single possible voter to come on Election Day. Wolffe talks a bit about how the data was sliced and diced to figure out who were the undecideds and who was up for grabs as a possible vote.
He also talks about the messaging from the campaign. The economy, economy, economy. How to talk about it when it was still really bad and hard for people to find work? How to define the eventual Republican candidate, Mitt Romney? What could they say? What should they say? Wolffe also talks a bit about the Republican side of things, about their messages and their communications response, but clearly he's writing this from the Obama campaign POV. But Wolffe does a good job in talking about the major events of the campaign (Romney's overseas trip, the Republican National Convention, the debates, etc.) and how communications and messaging was handled by both sides.
There's also quite a bit of drama within the Obama campaign. The "no drama Obama" ideal definitely never happened here (at all?) as it's clear different strategists have difference alliances, different goals and different ways of working. People dislike each other, disagree, work around each other, etc. When you read this it puts some future events into better context (main one that came to mind was David Axlerod and Jim Messina working on for the opposing main British political parties). I felt a little uncomfortable for the negative views on Stephanie Cutter, the deputy campaign manager. Wolffe says more than once that no one wanted to work with her and had ambitions for working in the White House. That she had a strong bond with First Lady Michelle Obama is hinted as a reason why others had to put up with her. Nothing wrong with ambitions campaign workers, but the men didn't seem to get the same treatment and so it makes me wonder a bit.
In some ways the book doesn't really tell anything that's new. It confirmed a statement by a Republican consultant that I listened to the day after the election in 2012. He said he by...8 PM (maybe later, can't remember) that the election would be called for Obama and went to sleep at a nice, regular time. The Obama campaign fought to define its opponent earlier in the summer, when the nomination wasn't official but Romney was clearly going to be the candidate. Because Romney and the GOP failed to respond in a timely manner (or at all, as Wolffe points out Romney avoided discussing his religion, which might have helped with the voters), the Obama campaign had the advantage of being able to bludgeon Romney over Bain.
It's not a bad book, and works as a complement to others out there (Game Change: Double Down, for example). But unless one is really interested in the communications and messaging aspects of the campaign, it wasn't exactly a page-turning like GC was. I enjoyed it but was glad I picked it up from the library.