Jockeying for the American Presidency: The Political Opportunism of Aspirants

by Lara M. Brown


“Opportunism is a trait we often spot in politicians, usually ones we do not like. Lara Brown seeks to operationalize this candidate trait and assess its impact upon candidate success in presidential nominations and elections over the course of our nation’s electoral history … Her extensive analysis yields a variety of new and important findings … This volume contains much of value for scholars of the presidency and presidential elections." – Presidential Studies Quarterly

"Brown writes engagingly of James K. Polk and selective winners from different eras ... the concluding chapter deals with the 2008 election; the analysis of how the Obama forces outmaneuvered Senator Clinton's campaign is admirable ... her ambitious attempt for cohesive coverage of a vast sweep of U.S. political history is competent ... Recommended." – CHOICE

“Lara Brown sheds new light on presidential politics in her analysis of presidential aspirants … Anyone interested in presidential elections will benefit greatly from reading this book.” — James P. Pfiffner, George Mason University

“This book will compel scholars to take a new look at the role of “political opportunism” in the presidential selection process. Brown provides a fresh, innovative exploration of the roots of opportunism, one that challenges conventional wisdom as it advances our understanding of this complex topic.” — Michael A. Genovese, Loyola Marymount University

“Dr. Lara Brown’s Jockeying for the American Presidency is one of the best books this discipline has contributed to the study of presidential nominations and elections. Her book has three especially attractive features. First, she correctly conceives of ambition as the theoretical base and she roots that ambition early in the presidential aspirants’ political careers. Second, she is very clear on the interaction between individual goals, here ambition for the Oval Office, and the development of partisan and electoral institutions. Third, as necessitated by the small number of nominations and the endogeneity among ambition, opportunity, and institution, her study is deeply historical. But history here is not just good research design—it animates the study and makes it such a pleasure to read.” — John H. Aldrich, Duke University

“Lara Brown links candidate opportunism to political experience, electoral success, partisan change, and institutional development. Admirably, she also seeks to contextualize opportunistic behavior—to be sensitive to history, norms, and contingent events. This is at bottom a study about candidate qualities—human nature, political character, the appetite for power—and the consequences of these for the successful pursuit of the presidential office. This, I believe, constitutes the core of the study and its greatest strength. In fact, in some ways this book is one of a small handful of works in recent memory to take very seriously the political and institutional implications of human nature—ambition, self-interest, opportunism—since the Federalist Papers.” — Scott C. James, UCLA


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