Photo credit: Janet Donovan

“We don’t know for sure what we would’ve called the book had it gone the other way but the leading candidate on election day was battered and that just tells you that we understood that this was going to be a very close election and we thought that it was going to be closer than the public polling showed,” said Jonathan Allen, senior national politics reporter for NBC News and co-author/work partner with Amie Parnes, senior political correspondent for The Hill at a Zoom book celebration for Lucky:How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency hosted by The Hill’s Editor-at-Large Steve Clemons and Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack. “I think we believed that it was going to be closer than the Biden campaign thought and you know, we really weren’t sure how it was going to turn out. And part of that is having in 2016 written a book about Hillary Clinton’s losing campaign before the election happened and having our editor call us and say, in like October of 2016, ‘You guys have a huge problem.’ We said, ‘What’s the problem. Why don’t we just see what happens on election day?'”

Steve Clemons, Amie Parnes, Bob Cusack, Jonathan Allen

About the book: “The inside story of the historic 2020 presidential election and Joe Biden’s harrowing ride to victory, from the #1 New York Times bestselling authors of Shattered, the definitive account of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. Almost no one thought Joe Biden could make it back to the White House—not Donald Trump, not the two dozen Democratic rivals who sought to take down a weak front-runner, not the mega-donors and key endorsers who feared he could not beat Bernie Sanders, not even Barack Obama. The story of Biden’s cathartic victory in the 2020 election is the story of a Democratic Party at odds with itself, torn between the single-minded goal of removing Donald Trump and the push for a bold progressive agenda that threatened to alienate as many voters as it drew.” Penguin Random House

“It’s not the first time that Joe Biden has believed that he was the guy that was going to win the presidency,” added Jonathan.  “I mean run twice before and chosen not to run several other times. I think with Biden what you see in this book and certainly saw in the election was somebody who came into it with a pretty good view of where he thought the American people were; what he thought would sell as something that the broader public wanted which was more comity, a little more calmness; a departure from Trump in terms of character and compassion.  I keep saying C words, but you see that with him and there’s this sort of consistency to what he’s saying that I think lends him authenticity.”

“I think we all kind of understood that it was sort of lights out for Biden at  a particular moment in Iowa and New Hampshire,” said Parnes. “But when you look at just how bad it was how he couldn’t, wasn’t getting any traction, wasn’t getting the fundraising he needed; the fact is that his aides came to him and said: ‘ You might have to refinance your house.’ That was quite stunning. I mean, they were running on something like $1.5 million, which isn’t a lot of money for a campaign. It doesn’t look good and he’d have his head down and he’s really down for the count, but he’s still kind of hopeful. And he is telling his wife to hang on.  So he kind of knows that if he can hang on he can win this thing.”

“The one thing that he has had a pretty good feel for is where’s the mainstream and it’s something he’s done legislatively and politically throughout his career. He did it in Delaware. He has, you know, been pretty good at like standing in the middle of being at that fulcrum point and sensing when the politics move just one direction or the other. And I think that served him extremely well in this campaign, even if the mechanics of the campaign were really kind of bad early on. And if you saw him on the campaign trail in Iowa or New Hampshire, this is not somebody who looked like they were going to be the next president. The one thing that’s true about political operatives is that they operate as political hub. There’s always a campaign within the campaign at every moment, several of them running at any time. There was this real concern among Democrats that they could shoot themselves in the foot very easily that anything that made them look disorganized would be harmful to Biden. And so they kept it all tight and wrapped in inside. That’s part of the Biden ethos in this presidential campaign. I think it’s more broadly part of the Biden ethos.” Jonathan Allen

“I think one of his strengths has always been that he relates well  to sort of the common man for lack of a better term,” added Jonathan. “I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like Joe Biden who’s met him. I mean he’s a likable person, he’s an affable person. There’s lots of like people who shouldn’t be president, but one of his great qualities as a politician is people like him. And when he’s mean to people – and we write about this in the book – or when harsh with somebody or curses at them or calls more horse’s tail, he’s very quick to apologize to them.”

Bob Cusack wanted to know how you could write a book during a pandemic.

“It was really one of the hardest things I think John and I have ever done,” replied Amie, “managing families, a full-time job, everyone around you at any given point. I think because he and I have worked together for so long since our third book, that helped us.  We got into a groove again. I haven’t seen Jon in the flesh in more than a year. We wrote this book together without being together, which is crazy. When you think about it, we usually interview sources together. We did everything on the phone and  in Google docs. So it was a very unusual situation, a very tough book to do because our deadline was a lot quicker than Shattered. We felt this immense pressure, but it’s always great to have a partner in the foxhole with you facing these deadlines.  I attribute all of this to a great partnership mostly.”

The above conversation has been edited for brevity purposes.  And of course, the juiciest parts are in the book which you can buy here.