Are Candidates Selling Their Ideas Or Their Books? If a candidate has written a book — like Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann — the campaign trail presents many opportunities to promote it. These candidate books are a time-honored tradition: The all-time sales champ is Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope.
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Are Candidates Selling Their Ideas Or Their Books?

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Are Candidates Selling Their Ideas Or Their Books?

Are Candidates Selling Their Ideas Or Their Books?

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Of course, only one Republican will win the party's presidential nomination, but for the remaining contenders, there can be other benefits. Case in point: Most of the current GOP hopefuls have written books, and so their campaigns can double as book tours. As we hear from NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea, sometimes it's hard to tell the politics from the promotional events.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Books by presidential candidates are nothing new. It's a time-honored device to lay out both a personal story and policy proposals. The all-time sales champ in this category is Barack Obama's "The Audacity of Hope." This is from the audio version.

(SOUNDBITE OF AUDIOBOOK, "THE AUDACITY OF HOPE")

GONYEA: In the current campaign, the bookshelf is loaded. There's Mitt Romney's "No Apology." He talked about the book on "The Today Show" last year.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TODAY SHOW")

GONYEA: Texas Governor Rick Perry's book is called "Fed Up!" He too went on "The Today Show," before he was a candidate.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TODAY SHOW")

GONYEA: Texas Congressman Ron Paul, meanwhile, has been writing books for many years. His most recent is called "Liberty Defined." He visited "The View" this year before officially jumping into the race.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE VIEW")

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GONYEA: Longtime publisher Peter Osnos has worked on political books. He says it's a medium where the candidate has total control.

PETER OSNOS: A book has a great virtue. It's just you and the reader. There is no interviewer. There is nobody to get in the way.

GONYEA: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann releases her new book next week. That's actually kind of late. But Bachmann, who has slumped in the polls after a strong start, will use the occasion to reintroduce herself to voters. But the commingling of candidate books and the campaign itself raises some questions. Dennis Goldford is a political scientist at Drake University.

DENNIS GOLDFORD: You can ask in a way: Is the book there to sell a presidential candidacy? But in some cases, you may wonder if the candidacy is there to sell the book.

GONYEA: Which brings us to two candidates who stand out in this field for their aggressive approach to product promotion: former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and businessman Herman Cain. Gingrich is a prolific author writing on politics and history. He's co-authored a brand-new novel set during the Civil War, and he produces movies. This trailer is from a Gingrich-produced film called "A City Upon A Hill."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A CITY UPON A HILL")

GONYEA: Additionally, emails from Gingrich are often about a movie or book he's selling. Cain's book, meanwhile, is called "This is Herman Cain." His travel schedule has prompted many to wonder if it's all really about selling books. Visits to Iowa have been rare. Instead, he's been in Arkansas, Tennessee, Wisconsin and other places far from the early caucus and primary action. Cain addressed the assertion that his ultimate goal is to land a TV show, like former candidate Mike Huckabee did after his failed 2008 presidential run.

HERMAN CAIN: If you know Herman Cain, you know that nothing is further from the truth. If you don't believe me, I invite you to get a copy of my new book, "This is Herman Cain."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CAIN: You know, if you can find one, because they are selling like hotcakes.

GONYEA: Cain made those comments before allegations of past sexual harassment and an awkward answer to a question about Libya went viral. Any candidate would worry about the impact of such things on a political campaign, but selling oneself as an author or a TV host or commentator is another matter. Constituents there can be much more forgiving. Don Gonyea, NPR News.

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