With the release of their new book Double Down, election 2012 insiders Mark Halperin and John Heilemann are revealing countless untold secrets of the campaign cycle that got President Barack Obama re-elected to a second term.
At the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., on Thursday night, the authors bemused the audience with tales from the campaign trail, as well as speculation about 2016. With 500 interviews under their belt, the duo has a wealth of knowledge about the real goings-on of the 2012 election.
Here are five things you probably didn’t know about the 2012 election.
1. Winning in 2012 meant more to Obama than winning in 2008
“The President felt that the stakes in the race were much higher…on election night when he won, he said that this race meant more to him than the 2008 race, as historic as that race was, because he felt like in that case, in 2008, he was largely — people were betting on hope and they were betting on promise. They weren’t betting on really any accomplishments. He had not really done that much as a United States Senator. By the time he was running for re-election, he had a record. He had done some very big things, very controversial things, and things that he felt like if he were defeated in 2012 would be at risk…So he felt as though he had to win this race…” – Heilemann
2. Obama’s re-election team thought he was the underdog
“People now look back and say, ‘Well, this race was always in the bag for Barack Obama.’ The president’s team did not think that in the fall of 2011. They thought they were at best a 50/50 shot at it, possibly the underdogs.” -Heilemann
3. Ironically enough, former President Bill Clinton was critiquing John Edwards’ legal strategy at an Obama fundraiser.
“President Clinton was rapt, watching television, seeing reports from the John Edwards trial. President Clinton did not like John Edwards’ legal strategy. He was giving a lot of advice about what the Edwards team should be doing…it was a little weird for some of the Obama people to hear Bill Clinton opining about this particular topic.” -Heilemann
4. Obama called Clinton first after finding out he had won re-election.
“On election night, when Mitt Romney called to concede to President Obama, the first person after Barack Obama hung up the phone — he says to Jim Messina, his campaign manager, ‘Get Bill on the phone.’ The first person the president called after election night.” -Heilemann
5. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is Obama’s chosen successor to carry on his legacy.
“Hillary Clinton, if she runs for President, she brings a lot of strengths and assets to the table, for sure. But no one would have expected that one of the assets she brings is that, in subtle and quiet, but really significant ways, she seems to be — though the president will never put his thumb visibly on the scale — she seems to be his chosen successor. She is doing a lot of things quietly to make sure that she is the inheritor of his political team, of his brand, of his coalition…” -Heilemann
BONUS: Who would the authors like to see face off in 2016, purely from the standpoint of interesting characters to write about?
Halperin: Vice President Joe Biden and former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
Heilemann: Russian President Vladimir Putin, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a martian — if the prohibition against foreign-born candidates was removed.