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Presidential hopefuls publishing books

A torrent of words from presidential candidates is to be expected, but the latest crowd of White House wannabes has taken the old academic stricture "publish or perish" to heart.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A torrent of words from presidential candidates is to be expected, but the latest crowd of White House wannabes has taken the old academic stricture "publish or perish" to heart.

At least eight of the prospective 2008 candidates have books scheduled for publication or that have recently been published.

Some of the books are even selling well.

A decade of change
"When I took this job 10 years ago, every publisher said to me, 'Political books don't sell.' Boy, has the world changed. Now political books are hot," said Patricia Schroeder, president of the Association of American Publishers, a trade group for the book publishing industry.

The books that rack up the sales tend to be the ones whose authors are already political celebrities, such as New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Arizona Sen. John McCain.

For most candidates, however, it's the practical political benefits rather than a desire to indulge their inner muse that drives them to pick up their pens - or keyboards, as the case may be.

"It's a very handy tool for when people say, 'What's your position on this?' You can say, 'Well, it's outlined in the book' or 'I have this book' - you get a lot of gravitas," said Schroeder, a former Colorado congresswoman who flirted with a run for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is weighing a bid for the Republican nomination, said he hopes a book he's written, "From Hope To Higher Ground: 12 STOPS to Restoring America's Greatness," slated for released in January, will help him determine whether there's any support for his potential candidacy.

"If people say, 'Boy, I agree with you,' then I think that could be a real jump-start," Huckabee said. "If, on the other hand, people say, 'I think you have the wrong direction and vision,' that would be a pretty clear indicator."

Several likely candidates have made previous forays into publishing. Huckabee, for example, who lost 110 pounds, is also the author of an advice book for leading a healthy lifestyle.

On Tuesday, Simon & Schuster is scheduled to re-release Clinton's "It Takes a Village," in which the former first lady and potential 2008 Democratic front-runner chronicled her quest to help make society into the kind of village that enables children to become successful adults.

The book was a best-seller when first released 10 years ago, selling 700,000 copies, as was Clinton's 2003 memoir, "Living History." While impressive, those numbers hardly compare to, say, the Harry Potter series, which sells millions.

More  books in the works
John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator and 2004 Democratic running mate, said he is editing a collection of essays on prescriptions for alleviating poverty, due out in 2007. His coffee table meditation, "Home: The Blueprints of Our Lives," was published in November. It was No. 494 at

Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, is the author of a well-received book released in September, "Saving Graces," about her battle with breast cancer. It ranked No. 454 at

McCain, the presumptive GOP front-runner, and his longtime administrative assistant, Mark Salter, are working on their fifth nonfiction book, timed for a late August 2007 release. The book will describe historically significant decisions.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic nominee, and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, are co-writing a book on environmental issues that's due out this spring.

Kerry was laying the groundwork for a 2008 bid until just before the midterm election in November, when an off-the-cuff joke went awry. He has said he is still considering his options.

Former Vice President Al Gore, the 2000 Democratic nominee, has a book due out from Penguin Press in May 2007, "The Assault on Reason," which contains a less-than-flattering assessment of the Bush administration. Gore's global-warming tome, "An Inconvenient Truth," is a best-seller, and his documentary by the same name is in the running for an Oscar nomination.

Gore has said he has no plans to run in 2008, but he has been careful not to rule out the possibility.

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who is eyeing a bid for the Democratic nomination, has a book, "American Son" (Palgrave Macmillan) slated for a fall 2007 released. Clark, a former NATO commander, is also the author of two books on modern warfare.

Branching out from books
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream," released in October, is a best-seller, topping The New York Times list for several weeks and ranking No. 2 on late Monday. His book signings have drawn long lines in some parts of the country.

Obama won a Grammy last February for his readings of the autobiographical "Dreams From My Father," which was published in 1995 but became a best-seller as Obama became a rising political star.

Ever since former Minnesota Gov. Harold E. Stassen wrote "Where I Stand" in 1948, books by candidates outlining their views have been a staple of presidential campaigns, said Ashbel Green, a senior editor at publisher Alfred A. Knopf.

"It's become a political mantra for candidates," Green said. "They think they may use the book for fundraising or they think they'll get a lot of book reviews, which can transmit their ideas."

Obama has "struck a nerve" with his books, but few candidates are a commercial success as authors, Green said.