The authors of Shattered, which recounted Hillary Clinton's loss in the 2016 Presidential race, return with a post mortem on the Biden campaign, concluding that favorable twists of fate helped the 46th President eke out a much narrower victory than many realize.
It’s understandable that Allen and Parnes would do everything they could to amp up the drama—not an easy feat ... A future researcher will undoubtedly find it useful to have a page and a half of exacting detail about what everyone was thinking when a fly landed on Mike Pence’s head during the vice-presidential debate, or to learn how Biden’s people insisted on watering down one of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s jokes during the Democratic convention. Given how the American political system currently works, the granular politicking ably recounted in Lucky is a necessity—but what becomes unintentionally clear is how wasteful so much of it is.
... a brisk and detailed account of the 2020 presidential race ... blunt, insidery talk is the lifeblood of Lucky ... a little deceptive. The 2020 race transpired against the backdrop of a deadly pandemic, widespread racial-justice protests and threats to American democracy emanating from the presidency itself. In Lucky, such context matters largely to the extent that it affects the candidates’ rhetoric and fundraising ... As a result, the moments of high drama in Lucky can feel small-bore ... Allen and Parnes overwrite. There are memorable and telling insider moments in Lucky, revealing vital negotiations or highlighting simple truths that parties and campaigns would rather obfuscate ... Unfortunately, Allen and Parnes clutter their story with italicized descriptions of what various players are really thinking at particular moments ... these asides are distracting and often unnecessary ... Note to political reporters and nonfiction authors: Italics are not a get-out-of-quote free card ... Lucky provides useful detail to understand Biden’s victory, even if the framing is not particularly novel ... Biden was more than lucky. And for political reporters as for political candidates, spending too much time on optics is just not a good look.
As Parnes and Allen make clear, despite a relentless post-election narrative emphasizing the supposed strength of Biden’s victory, usually resting on the meaningless statistic that he had won 'more votes than any other presidential candidate in US history,' the campaign was well aware of how fragile this really was ... Puzzlingly, despite all their reporting to the contrary, the authors conclude that Biden’s detractors had been wrong about him, and suggest the outcome proved his strategy had been the right one all along ... Yet the inescapable takeaway from both Lucky and the campaign it recounts is quite the opposite.