Sunday, December 09, 2012

Book Review: Toomey's Triumph by Harold I. Gullan

Book Review:  Toomey’s Triumph:  Inside a Key Senate Campaign, by Harold I. Gullan.  Philadelphia:  Temple University Press, 2012.

Gullan, an advertising executive turned history professor, writes about the 2010 Senate race.  Instead of taking a standard historical approach he sort of embeds himself in the Toomey campaign and writes chronologically, so at the start of the book he isn’t sure who will be running, let alone who wins. 

Chapter  1 Prelude (March 2010).  Gullan explains how the book got started and introduces the cast of characters.  He approached the campaign and asks if they would be willing to grant him access to campaign activities and interview staff.  At this point Toomey is the Republican candidate.  Incumbent Arlen Specter, who switched from the Republican to the Democratic party, faces Joe Sestak, then the congressman representing the 7th district.

Chapter 2 Three Paths to April.  This chapter provides family and political background on the three major candidates, including a shorter amount of information on Peggy Luksik, another Republican seeking the office, but given little chance of winning.  The author also goes into detail on Specter’s party switch.

Chapter 3 Setting the Table (May).  The focus here is on the Democratic primary.  There is also biographical information on Toomey’s campaign staff.  This chapter has two rather glaring typographical errors.  Congressman Bob Brady is referred to as “Bill Brady,” (52) and Inquirer reporter Tom Fitzgerald is referred to as “Tom Fitzpatrick” (61).    While Specter’s most recent book said the (in)famous “re-elected” ad did not have much effect on the campaign, Gullan says it is “devasting (59).  Gullan’s powers of observation and writing style are on display when he remarks that Dr. G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College “may use an excess of hair dye” (72).

Chapter 4 “Nothing inappropriate happened” (June).  The chapter title is in reference to the rumor of a job offer in the federal government used as a failed enticement to Joe Sestak to drop out of the race.  The chapter itself focuses on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  John Hanger, then the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and current candidate for governor, is described (77) as having a “strong background in the realities of resources exploration.” 

Chatper 5 The 80 Percent Solution (July).  Gullan focuses on campaign events, such as Joe Sestak’s talk before the PA Press Club, and television ads for the candidates.  He also notes that at campaign stops Sestak will so thoroughly answer questions that reporters will eventually end the conversation so they can write up their story before deadline.  [blogger note:  I can confirm this having personally observed the same phenomenon.]  Gullan also briefly discusses the Corbett / Onorato governor’s race.  He also writes about polls and polling.  

Chapter 6 Maintaining Momentum (August).  Toomey’s consultants (and the fact that he has two primary consultants) are described.  The chapter also has information on debates, interviews, television ads, and campaign positions.  

A few interesting quotes:

As each candidate’s staff seeks to define (and malign) their opponent, with multiple pronouncements emerging each day, this campaign cam sometimes seem like a contest between Sestak’s “Extreme Makeover” and Toomey’s Who wants to be a Millionaire.” (148)


Neither Joe Sestak nor Pat Toomey is a particularly compelling orator, nor do their diametrically opposed message really require one.  The difference is that Sestak at least tries for some semblance of oratory, while Toomey does not. (150)

Chapter 7  Seeking the Summit (September).  Another of Gullan’s peculiarities is his use of the term “tea bag” instead of Tea Party.  On p. 169 he refers to “tea bag supported Sharon Angle.”  Personally I think it is best to refer to individuals or groups by the name they use to refer to themselves.  Gullan also notes Sestak’s unusual speech patterns and delivery.  He discusses earmarks and both candidates’ current and past positions on earmarks.  Like many Pennsylvania politicos he is fond of Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN), and he writes about watching some of their televised political events.

Chapter 8 Driving it Home (October).  The race heats up.  Gullan focuses on campaign events and ads.

Chapter 9 Toomsday (Nov 2, 2010).  Election day and the immediate aftermath.

See other reviews and articles on the book at "Mt. Airy author's book recounts Toomey's campaign," by Lou Mancinelli,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just read Faith of Our Mothers by Harold Gullan. He is so obviously partisan that it is amusing. I hope that someone writes a version of this theme in the future which stretches less to show the families of our presidents influenced their development.