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“Ground Wars”—Rasmus Kleis Nielsen publishes new book on American politics

Political campaigns in the U.S. are won or lost in the so-called ground war—under cover of candidate debates, television advertisements and social media outreach, campaigns deploy teams of staffers, volunteers, and paid part-timers who work the phones and canvass block by block, house by house, voter by voter.

Ground Wars provides an in-depth ethnographic portrait of two such campaigns, New Jersey Democrat Linda Stender's and that of Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut, who both ran for Congress in 2008. It shows how political operatives use "personalized political communication" to engage with the electorate and challenges the notion that political communication in America must be tightly scripted, controlled, and conducted by a select coterie of professionals while also quashing the romantic idea that canvassing is a purer form of grassroots politics.

In today's political ground wars, the book demonstrates, even the most ordinary-seeming volunteer knocking at your door is backed up by high-tech targeting technologies and party expertise. Ground Wars reveals how personalized political communication has been reinvented in recent years and how it is profoundly influencing electoral outcomes and transforming American democracy.

The book will be launched at the Rothermere American Institute on Monday February 13 5pm onwards with a talk by the author followed by discussion and a wine reception.

It is published by Princeton University Press and available via Amazon or academic bookstores like Blackwells.