CHESTERTOWN, MD— Gone are the days when you could win the presidency just by making speeches and kissing babies. Instead, as a new book by journalist Sasha Issenberg chronicles, today’s campaigns are run by teams of technicians using statistics, behavioral psychology and data-mining to determine just how millions of Americans will vote. Issenberg will discuss his findings in a free public talk on Tuesday, October 2, at Washington College.
The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns was published this month by Crown Books; a review in The New Republic called it “a timely, rare, and valuable attempt to unveil the innovations revolutionizing campaign politics.” For instance, Issenberg describes a “micro-targeting system” that the Obama campaign uses to predict the preference of every voter in the country. Other candidates use new insights from behavioral psychology in crafting their message and persona.
Issenberg’s talk will begin at 5:30 p.m. in Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall, on the College campus, 300 Washington Avenue, and will be followed by a book signing.
Sasha Issenberg is the Washington correspondent for Monocle. He covered the 2008 presidential campaign for The Boston Globe as a national political reporter, and has written for The New York Times Magazine, Slate, and George, where he served as a contributing editor. He is also the author of The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy.
“Sasha Issenberg is our most acute observer of the modern political campaign,” says the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Richard Ben Cramer. “He takes us beyond the charge-and-counter-charge, the rallies and stump speeches, to show us the hidden persuaders. This is the politics you'll never see on the nightly news.”
The Issenberg event is the second in a four-part series, “The Anatomy of an Election,” cosponsored by the College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and the Louis L. Goldstein Program in Public Affairs. The series continues on Oct. 16 with Trevor Potter, the former chair of the Federal Election Commission and a regular guest on “The Colbert Report,” who will talk about the problematic role of money in presidential politics, especially since the rise of so-called Super PACs. General counsel to John McCain’s 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns, Potter has been described by the American Bar Association Journal as “hands-down one of the top lawyers in the country on the delicate intersection of politics, law and money.”
The series concludes with an Oct. 23 event on the role of media. Panelists include Betsy Fischer, longtime executive producer of Meet the Press, political reporters James Hohmann and Jonathan Martin of Politico, and Washington College alumnus Jack Bohrer ’06, who has written about politics for many publications, including The New Republic and Salon.
Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, Washington College is a private, independent college of liberal arts and sciences located in colonial Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. For more information, www.washcoll.edu.
The College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is dedicated to fostering innovative approaches to the American past and present. Through educational programs, scholarship and public outreach, and a special focus on written history, the Starr Center seeks to bridge the divide between the academic world and the public at large. For more information on the Center, visit http://starrcenter.washcoll.edu.
The Louis L. Goldstein Program in Public Affairs was established at the College in 1990 to encourage students to enter public service by introducing them to exemplary leaders, both in and out of government. The Goldstein Program sponsors lectures, symposia and visiting fellows, student participation in models and conferences, and other projects that bring students and faculty together with leaders experienced in developing public policy. For more information, visit http://academics.washcoll.edu/goldsteinprogram/.