‘Top Line’ Book Corner’: David Plouffe’s ‘The Audacity to Win’

By Gorman Gorman

Dec 11, 2009 2:42pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: President Obama's campaign manager in 2008, David Plouffe, has gained a reputation as a no-nonsense, data-obsessed manager — a strong-willed, hard-working operative who doesn't seek the limelight, and who was instrumental in besting the Hillary Clinton and John McCain political machines.

Plouffe's campaign memoir, "The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama's Historic Victory," is an insightful — and, at times, surprising — look an incredible run for the presidency, as managed by a group of smart Democratic operatives who were nonetheless learning as they went along.

Among the startling revelations: Plouffe writes that Team Obama was caught totally off-guard when ABC News first aired video clips of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's fiery sermons last March, since aides failed to do basic opposition research on their own candidate.

"We just didn't prepare as extensively," Plouffe told us on ABC's "Top Line" today. "We had answered a lot of questions about it, and looked at a lot of sermons. But what we hadn't done really was sit down and watched every single one of them on video."

"We live in an increasingly video age. One of the things I remark on [in the book is that] in the campaign, those things that had a video component to it exploded [this election] cycle; those that didn't had a day or two and then they quieted down. So that was the mistake…. We didn't have all the resulting conversations about, 'OK, are there decisions we should make to get ahead of this?' We didn't do any of that."

Plouffe's book also has fascinating behind-the-scenes details of the vice-presidential selection process, including interviews he and David Axelrod had with the three finalists: Gov. Tim Kaine, D-Va.; Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind.; and Joe Biden.

Asked whether the campaign would have been different had Obama chosen Kaine or Bayh, Plouffe said: "Probably not, in the operational aspect of it. How voters would've viewed that, I'm not sure. I think Biden though ended up being the right choice, both for the campaign and for the now, as a vice president."

Plouffe chose not to work in the White House, though he told us he'll probably end up working for Obama again in some capacity at some point: "I'm taking at least a couple years, you know, to spend more time with my family, and we'll see where things stand. I'm sure at some point all of us who helped him will need to put back the uniform –put the uniform back on. … What form that takes and what timing that takes we'll have to see."

Plouffe earlier this week issued a challenge to his fans to try to place his book above Sarah Palin's on bestseller lists, if for only a day, in something of an attempt to re-fire the old campaign engines.

Plouffe said he didn't beat her, but added, "It did well. Our little coffee shop versus the big Starbucks monolith did pretty well. We didn't catch her — we knew it would be hard. But we had fun with it and helped get the message out about the President's leadership and the great work the volunteers, the grass-roots did on the campaign."

Watch the full interview with David Plouffe HERE. Read about more highlights HERE.

And here's a look at some more highlights from the book, from a "Good Morning America" piece I did when copies of the book leaked in late October.

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