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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (625 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Richard Wolffe Narrator: Arthur Morey Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2009 ISBN: 9781415966051
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Before the White House and Air Force One, before the TV ads and the enormous rallies, there was the real Barack Obama: a man wrestling with the momentous decision to run for the presidency, feeling torn about leaving behind a young family, and figuring out how to win the biggest prize in politics.

This book is the previously untold and epic story of how a political newcomer with no money and an alien name grew into the world’s most powerful leader. But it is also a uniquely intimate portrait of the person behind the iconic posters and the Secret Service code name Renegade.

Drawing on a dozen unplugged interviews with the candidate and president, as well as twenty-one months covering his campaign as it traveled from coast to coast, Richard Wolffe answers the simple yet enduring question about Barack Obama: Who is he?

Based on Wolffe’s unprecedented access to Obama, Renegade reveals the making of a president, both on the campaign trail and before he ran for high office. It explains how the politician who emerged in an extraordinary election learned the personal and political skills to succeed during his youth and early career. With cool self-discipline, calculated risk taking, and simple storytelling, Obama developed the strategies he would need to survive the onslaught of the Clintons and John McCain, and build a multimillion-dollar machine to win a historic contest.

In Renegade, Richard Wolffe shares with us his front-row seat at Obama’s announcement to run for president on a frigid day in Springfield, and his victory speech on a warm night in Chicago. We fly on the candidate’s plane and ride in his bus on an odyssey across a country in crisis; stand next to him at a bar on the night he secures the nomination; and are backstage as he delivers his convention speech to a stadium crowd and a transfixed national audience. From a teacher’s office in Iowa to the Oval Office in Washington, we see and hear Barack Obama with an immediacy and honesty never witnessed before.

Renegade provides not only an account of Obama’s triumphs, but also examines his many personal and political trials. We see Obama wrestling with race and politics, as well as his former pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright. We see him struggling with life as a presidential candidate, a campaign that falters for most of its first year, and his reaction to a surprise defeat in the New Hampshire primary. And we see him relying on his personal experience, as well as meticulous polling, to pass the presidential test in foreign and economic affairs.

Renegade is an essential guide to understanding President Barack Obama and his trusted inner circle of aides and friends. It is also a riveting and enlightening first draft of history and political psychology.


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Quotes & Awards

  • The first of the President Obama books–and a good one–insightful, thorough, and straight. Ben Bradlee, Washington Post
  • If you really want to know what happened inside the Obama campaign, this is the one book that will take you there. My jaw dropped time and time again reading details that, despite the coverage, were never revealed in the long campaign. A clear-eyed, up-close look at the campaign, Renegade is the one Obama book that should not be missed. Michele Norris, All Things Considered
  • A superb achievement. With an almost painterly eye, compelling insights, and extraordinary access to Barack Obama and his inner circle, Richard Wolffe’s Renegade tells the hidden, dramatic story of the 2008 campaign and also reveals much we did not know about the 44th president’s life before politics. Wolffe’s brisk, well-written narrative is fully in the tradition of Theodore White and Richard Ben Cramer, capturing a pivotal presidential contest dominated by one of the most luminous figures in modern American history. Michael Beschloss, author of Presidential Courage
  • Many journalists covered the 2008 presidential campaign for newsrooms and blogvilles. Not the intrepid Richard Wolffe. With gumshoe persistence he tracked Barack Obama’s historic march to victory with grace and cunning. Renegade offers a deft mix of biography, personal reflection, British wit, and old-style journalism. Destined to be a classic in its genre. Douglas Brinkley, professor of history, Rice University
  • Politics is a lot like basketball–complete with drives up the middle, clutch rebounding, and smart head fakes. In Renegade, Richard Wolffe takes us inside the game through unparalleled access to candidate-turned-president Obama and through his own canny eye and wit. I learned something new on practically every page. Gwen Ifill, Washington Week in Review and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
  • This is an insightful, unusually moving, fully observed portrait of the improbable candidate and complicated man who would be president, a riveting backstage drama set just at the moment America’s third act prepared to debut. If Jefferson started the exalted but flawed exercise and Lincoln enlarged it, then with Richard Wolffe’s wonderful book–graced as it is with a journalist’s eye and a historian’s breadth and command–we are granted the gift of access to the second skinny lawyer from Illinois who would save our country. Marvelous. Ken Burns, award-winning filmmaker

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brian Ayres | 2/2/2014

    " I must admit that I voted and support Barack Obama, which might cloud the issue of why I read and enjoyed Richard Wolffe's analysis of his rise to power. However, Wolffe's book, while a touch long, is well-written and well-sourced and is not simply a blow-by-blow account of the 2008 primary and general election campaigns. Wolffe does steal a lot from Obama's two books, particularly Dreams from My Father, his autobiographical struggles with his racial identity. Wolffe uses Obama's words and experiences to illustrate just how Obama rose from Illinois obscurity to the presidency. Yes, Wolffe is a homer, having been given a dozen full-length interviews with Obama over the course of the campaign. I did find it a bit much when Wolffe continued to illustrate the literal emotions Obama evoked from senior staff like David Axelrod and Marty Nesbitt after speeches or rallies. But Wolffe does successfully show why Obama was a POLITICAL renegade. He did not wait in line after Hillary Clinton and took what he felt he could win. And he did it with his ideas and style. It is in this regard as to why Obama is angering those on the progressive left of the Democratic party, particularly by not overreaching on health care with a single-payer plan or upsetting teachers' unions by devising strategies to fire bad teachers. Don't let the Audacity of Hope rhetoric fool you. Obama is a realist and wants to keep winning. I like Obama not only for his ideas and intellect but because he was willing to turn pages on certain history, particularly the old tired arguments of the 1960s. While his win was truly historic and Wolffe's account amounts to a first draft, it is my hope that Obama's victory in 2008 will lessen the implicit biases of race and party. Call me naive, but isn't that what Hillary Clinton and John McCain called Obama until he won? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Aod | 2/1/2014

    " Everytime you read "community organizer": take a drink. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Soren | 2/1/2014

    " Mostly forgettable... skimmed through a big part of it. I think the Balz and the Plouffe books are better. Wolffe just doesn't seem to have the ability to find anything interesting to say. Glossing over the CW is not good enough... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ellie Revert | 1/29/2014

    " Glad I read this book by Richard Wolffe. We appreciate his views which we frequently see on Keith Olberman. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Yeti | 1/22/2014

    " Very well written. Insightful. Well balanced (at times). Wolffe has clearly drunk from the Obama keg of Kool-Aid, but he's not afraid to call the man out when he effs up. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andrew | 1/20/2014

    " The 2008 presidential election was a longer test of the candidates and nominees than any previous election, a trend that is sure to be repeated for most foreseeable presidential campaigns to come. I was one of the many college students enthralled by all the attention both sides were getting, but was particularly interested in the Democratic ticket because I felt there was really no chance for a Republican to win (even though Sen. McCain put forth a great effort). This book takes the reader inside the transformative campaign that then-Sen. Obama ran, looks into his diverse back-story before he turned to politics, and gives insight into the workings of the man in charge for the next four (or eight) years. The parallels between Obama's campaign and that of Robert Kennedy's is evidenced in the stories shared by voters across the country with the author (this one, thankfully, ending in a much more enjoyable fashion) and reminds me of Thurston Clarke's "The Last Campaign." A man who starts out as a neutral magazine reporter authors the book, but by the Afterword it is quite obvious he is no neutral party. I look forward to reading other (more neutral) accounts of what is to come from this President. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sean Wylie | 1/20/2014

    " Interesting look at the best run presidential campaign in history. Told with a very positive view of Obama, but also an interesting study of what it takes to win the presidency. Boy is politics a messy business. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mardi | 12/31/2013

    " wonderful read for any obama supporter!! =) "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jay Connor | 10/29/2013

    " Richard Wolf's "Renegade" is a disappointment. Not enough behind the scenes campainge strategy and too much Obama fawning. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Danielle | 10/15/2013

    " A good-ish, interesting look at the 2008 Obama campaign. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bonita | 7/7/2013

    " Intelligent, insightful, articulate; fills in the 'bones' of what we already know about Barack Obama and what it takes to campaign for and win the presidency. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Julia Shumway | 7/4/2013

    " This book focuses basically on Barack Obama's campaign efforts. I found it really informative and fascinating to see how a campaign works. The book is very detailed, starting with Barack Obama's decision to run through his victory. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jason Yarborough | 9/26/2012

    " Best book on the 2008 campaign so far. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Susan | 9/1/2012

    " An interesting behind the scenes history of the 2008 campaign. It was sometimes confusing because of the way the author jumbled the timeline in order to illustrate his themes, but I didn't find that too distracting. I enjoyed this. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marie | 3/29/2012

    " Although I followed last year's election closely, I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes perspective provided by this book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Stephen | 3/7/2012

    " This is the first book I've read of the last presidential campaign. I voted and continue to support Barack Obama, and I'm a fan of the author. So, while biased, I'll assert this is a fascinating book to read, giving insight into the events so many of us followed so closely. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ann Evans | 10/9/2011

    " Finally read this book (during the 2012 election). "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jeanie | 5/8/2011

    " An uneven and sometimes scattered story, but so fun to read the behind the scenes tidbits. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Vincent | 5/3/2011

    " Good look at" the Obama political machine" behind the curtain. I'm very proud of his Team! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Darrell Fisher | 4/1/2011

    " Wonderful history of the Obama campaign! I love knowing some of the behind the scene incidents. One thing I love is these guys where a lot more tougher than we thought! Amazing Book! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ginny | 3/25/2011

    " I followed the Obama campaign closely from the very beginning and found this book very interesting and detailed. Obviously, there were MANY things I didn't know. I enjoyed this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Declan | 2/20/2011

    " Pres. Obama changed the game on people. He figured out a new way to win and beat the political cynics. Wolffe is by no mean unbiased, but his version of the stories is engaging. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 IsobelDeBrujah | 1/29/2011

    " I really enjoyed this book. The behind the scenes information of the campaign that I was so involved in very interesting. The only issue that I have with it is that it seemed to gloss over even the most glaring mis-steps and mistakes made by the Obama campaign. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Heath | 1/26/2011

    " A meandering retelling of Obama's 2008 campaign that tries too hard to also be a mini biography. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Devawo | 10/6/2010

    " Read this in a politics class in 2009. My students actually hated it. They felt it was little more than a propaganda piece and in the end, I agreed with them. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lisa | 9/7/2010

    " I loved this book! It was awesome to read about of one of the most exciting campaigns in history. Gotta love politics. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sean | 9/5/2010

    " Interesting look at the best run presidential campaign in history. Told with a very positive view of Obama, but also an interesting study of what it takes to win the presidency. Boy is politics a messy business. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 William | 7/31/2010

    " Awesome amount of insight into the Obama campaign for president, takes you from the start to the end, and gives unprecedented access to Obama the candidate and Obama the man..It can be both dense and slow at parts, but def worth the read if your a fan. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joel | 6/1/2010

    " Interesting behind the scenes look at the Obama campaign from conception to primary campaign to general election to the start of his presidency. Nothing really ground-breaking, but a good history book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chris | 3/17/2010

    " I had already read about many of these events following the election over 2007-2008, but I none-the-less enjoyed reading about the inner workings of the campaign. A fairly average read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Delight | 2/28/2010

    " This book about the election was an interesting and insightful look at Barack Obama and the campaign that he ran. I learned a lot of new things due in large part to Wolffe's access to Obama and his innner circle. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Vincent | 2/14/2010

    " Good look at" the Obama political machine" behind the curtain. I'm very proud of his Team!
    "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bonita | 2/8/2010

    " Intelligent, insightful, articulate; fills in the 'bones' of what we already know about Barack Obama and what it takes to campaign for and win the presidency. "

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About the Author
Richard Wolffe is an award-winning journalist and political analyst for MSNBC television, appearing frequently on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and Hardball. He covered the entire length of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign for Newsweek magazine. Before Newsweek, Wolffe was a senior journalist at the Financial Times, serving as its deputy bureau chief and U.S. diplomatic correspondent. He lives with his wife and their three children in Washington, D.C.
About the Narrator

Arthur Morey has won three AudioFile Magazine “Best Of” Awards: in 2011 for Biography and History, in for History and Historical Fiction, and in 2009 for Nonfiction and Culture. His work has also garnered multiple AudioFile Earphones awards, and he has been nominated for an Audie Award. He graduated from Harvard and did graduate work at the University of Chicago. He has won awards for his fiction and drama, worked as an editor with several book publishers, and taught literature and writing at Northwestern University. As a narrator, he has received nineteen AudioFile Earphones Awards and been a finalist for the prestigious Audie Award.