King George, Virginia

Title: Winning Right: Campaign Politics and Conservative Policies

Author:  Ed Gillespie

Copyright: 2006

Reviewed By: Jim Hull

Main theme (from the back cover):

With a fresh, new insider’s perspective, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee draws from lessons learned in more than twenty years of campaign strategy and national policy debate –most especially from his role at the heart of the historic and groundbreaking 2004 presidential election- to reveal how the game of politics is played on its highest level.  In a frank and engaging narrative, he looks inside the George W. Bush presidency and beyond, to discuss such topics such as:

  • A political code of ethics and playing by the rules

  • Successes and failures in campaign planning and execution

  • The role of old and new media

  • The battle for the Supreme Court

  • Hot-button issues

  • The future of the GOP –and how to win right in 2008

About the Author (from the back cover):

Ed Gillespie is a founder and cochairman of Quinn Gillespie & Associates, a bipartisan public affairs firm that works with corporations, trade associations, and issue-based coalitions.  He was a principal drafter of the 1994 “Contract with America” and editor of the New York Times bestseller by the same name.  One of the most prominent and successful strategists in the Republican Party, he was general strategist for Elizabeth Dole’s 2002 Senate campaign, and was a top aide to former House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas and former RNC chairman Haley Barbour, now governor of Mississippi.  Gillespie served as chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2003 to 2005.  He currently serves as Counselor to the President.

Context of the Book:

This is Ed Gillespie’s memoir at a point in his life that he thought had become the pinnacle.  It is a capstone summary following his leadership of the Republican National Committee and service within the George W. Bush administration.  Written in a “lessons learned” chapter format, the beginning of the book captures his early life and rise to political leadership while the latter is Ed Gillespie’s prognostication and advice.  Like any autobiography, the book is written in a first-person point of view where some of the aspects of the book take on slightly “insider baseball” narratives.

Context of the Book’s Review:

Members of the King George TEA Party had the opportunity to host one of Ed Gillespie’s present-day (2014) Republican competitors for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Mark Warner(D).  In order to ensure that each candidate was researched equally, Winning Right was used as the source for understanding Ed Gillespie’s core principles and values that were expected to forecast his potential service as a Senator.  A casualty of the objectivity for this review, however, is the fact that the reviewer had been previously alerted to certain passages of Winning Right that outlined Ed Gillespie’s concept of federally mandated socialized medicine.  Depending upon what was presented in the book, this aspect could be a determining factor in the reviewer’s assessment of Ed Gillespie’s suitability and was the principle motivator to read this book.  Nonetheless, the reviewer sought to be as objective as possible in his determination of the true character of the book’s author.

The thesis of the book:

The thesis of this book is the premise that politics is a difficult endeavor but some lessons learned from an experienced political operative can mitigate some of those challenges.  The book chronicles some of Ed Gillespie’s successes, failures and “teachable moments” in an effort to educate the reader and not repeat those outcomes.

Reviewer’s thesis of the book:

The reviewer’s thesis of this book is that the author provided significant insight into the foundations of the author’s decision-making based upon the actions taken and the principles and values promoted within the book.  Any instance where the author’s perspectives are not aligned with commonly accepted core principles and values are cause for scrutiny.  Winning Right revealed that Ed Gillespie is the embodiment of a career lobbyist driven by a primary desire to achieve political success behind the facade of a leader that supports American values.

Summary of Content:

Scrutiny of specific excerpts from Winning Right revealed three distinct issues that should be cause for concern as Ed Gillespie seeks a position as US Senator:

  • In the interest of promoting a “genuine” account of himself, Ed Gillespie claims in the Preface “… in politics it’s impossible to separate your personal perspective from your professional one.”  While this is admirable it also gives the illusion that what Ed will say in public is what he holds true personally.  This was found not to be the case when, on Page 215, he conceded that he will readily compromise his principles and values.  His primary goal of winning, where the ends will justify the means, was revealed by this passage: "The nexus between ideologies (in the best sense of the word) and those in elected positions is a tenuous one.  I had historically straddled the divide, promoting conservative policies inside the party but paying attention to the political realities required to win elections."

  • Two specific passages revealed that Ed Gillespie is willing to compromise bedrock Republican values in order to garner political gain – regardless of the effect upon the American form of government. On page 238 is the following:  "[While 220 million Americans receive healthcare coverage, the] remainder is made up of two groups -27 million Americans who pay directly for their health care coverage and the nearly 50 million who, for a variety of reasons, go without coverage entirely. Getting coverage to those 50 million will entail changing how those with coverage get theirs.”  On page 245 Ed Gillespie went further with the following: "A more rational approach is to ensure that every emancipated adult capable of providing for his or her healthcare do so. One way to accomplish this is to use the tax code to gain compliance. Annual [taxpayer] filers would have to attest that they have some form of health coverage or else the 'standard deduction' on their income tax would be cut in half.”  In essence, Ed Gillespie outlined his vision for Obamacare -socialized medicine- in his personal memoir, a book printed before President Obama rose to the national scene as a potential candidate.  This is anathema to the Republican core values of free enterprise.

  • Ed Gillespie openly revealed his contempt for American citizens in three specific passages. His statement on Page 62 that "there is little margin in politics today for conceding a mistake.  It's better to just bear down and press forward or change the subject entirely" reveals someone that is more willing to whitewash over his mistakes instead of holding himself accountable and take responsibility for his successes and mistakes.  His statement on Page 86 that "In politics, body language is often more important than the words that are spoken" reveals someone that is deliberately more “show” than substance.  The most egregious example of Ed Gillespie’s contempt for American citizens is found on Page 95 where he said, "When communicating with voters, English beats math."

Analysis and Evaluation of the Book:

This was a fair book, easy to read, and provided good insight into the thinking of a modern-day politician and how that “machine” operates.  As a personal memoir it was short on robust insight into the core beliefs and personally held principles and values of the author.   Those beliefs, principles, and values that were revealed, however, did not always comport with the image of what America may want for as a representative of We The People.


A recommended read for insight of the candidate prior to election for office.