In the run-up to November 6, 2012, everyone and their brother will be telling you what to think about American politics and the 2012 presidential campaign. We’ve compiled a list (in no particular order) of the most savvy analysts in American politics today, those who over the years have demonstrated the most complete understanding of what’s going on—both macro and micro—in the political world.
Ronald Brownstein has twice been named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting of the 1996 and 2004 presidential elections. He is a weekly columnist for National Journal, Editorial Director of the National Journal Group, and a frequent contributor to the Atlantic. He has won numerous journalism awards, from the National Women's Political Caucus, the National Council on Public Polls, and the Los Angeles Press Club, and a lifetime achievement award from the American Political Science Association.
Brownstein's politics are widely considered liberal; indeed, he got his political start as a writer for Ralph Nader in the late 1970s. But his analysis of the political field is consistently accurate, fair, and useful for readers regardless of political allegiance.
Since joining the magazine as a defence correspondent in 1985, Michael Duffy has written over 40 cover stories about American politics for Time magazine. In 2005 he was named assistant managing editor, and co-wrote a book about Reverend Billy Graham's impact on American politics, The Preacher and the Presidents.
Duffy has twice won the prestigious Gerald R. Ford award for political journalism and in 1998 received the Goldsmith Award from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government for his investigation of campaign finance scandals.
Although he writes much less frequently for the magazine and its website, he is widely regarded in Washington as one of the savviest people in political journalism.
Charlie Cook founded his widely-acclaimed Cook Political Report newsletter in 1984 after having served as a staffer for a Democratic senator, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Policy Committee. Still, his analyses of American politics are considered non-partisan and one of the most reliable and authoritative in the business.
The Cook Political Report transitioned to an all-online publication in 2004, and is updated once a week in normal years and twice-weekly in election years. CBS' Bob Schieffer has called it 'the bible of the political community.' In addition to the Report, Cook writes a twice-weekly column for National Journal and appears as an Election Night analyst on NBC News.
Jennifer Duffy covers senatorial and gubernatorial campaigns for the Cook Political Report. Before joining the Report in 1988, Duffy was a press secretary for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Since then, she has provided political analysis for NBC News and has appeared on a host of other forums, including C-Span's 'Washington Journal' and 'The News Hour With Jim Lehrer.'
Her analyses of statewide and congressional races is considered essential reading in the political community.
John Heilemann co-wrote Game Change, the 2010 bestseller about the 2008 presidential campaign. He writes about politics for New York magazine, having previously worked for Wired and The Economist.
Although his column appears in a magazine that few in the political community read, much less subscribe to, his 'take' on matters is considered essential reading by everyone who is in the business.
Peggy Noonan worked in broadcast journalism before she became President Ronald Reagan's speechwriter in 1984. She also served as George Bush's speechwriter during his 1988 presidential campaign, when she coined such now-famous phrases as 'a kinder, gentler nation' and 'read my lips: no new taxes.'
Noonan is now a weekly columnist at the Wall Street Journal, where she writes in a generally conservative bent. She alienated some conservatives when in 2008 she criticised Sarah Palin for lacking the intellectual resources needed for higher office. Noonan is the author of 10 books, five of which have been New York Times bestsellers.
Walter Russell Mead is one of the country's foremost scholars of foreign policy. Currently a professor at Bard College, Mead is also editor-at-large of the American Interest, where he maintains a well-read blog.
Mead's focus is not limited to foreign policy. A long-time student of the impact of religion, region and race on politics, Mead provides a comprehensive view of the political terrain. The former Henry Kissinger Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Mead is the author of several books, most recently God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World.
Stuart Rothenberg is the editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report, a non-partisan newsletter devoted to presidential and congressional campaigns and public policy debates. Having earned Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut, Rothenberg has taught political science at Bucknell University and the Catholic University of America. He is a frequent contributor to CNN and Political Wire.
Dan Balz has been a political correspondent for the Washington Post since 1978. After graduating from the University of Illinois, Balz served in the U.S. Army from 1968-1971. He has received numerous awards from the American Political Science Association, and in April 2011 was given a prize for presidential reporting from the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Balz co-wrote The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election, the product of two years' reporting and analysis.
Mike Barone created the Almanac of American Politics, which has been called--even by one of Barone's detractors--'definitive and essential for anyone writing seriously about campaigns and Congress.' Published continually since 1972, the Almanac is an invaluable reference work profiling every US Congressman, every US Senator and every governor in the country.
Barone is a fellow for the American Enterprise Institute, and contributes political analyses to Fox News and the Washington Examiner.
John McIntyre co-founded the website Real Clear Politics in the late 1990s with his fellow bond-trader Tom Bevan. The website is a sort of political water-cooler on the web, aggregating political commentary and polling daily from a wide range of sources.
While some describe the site as conservative-leaning, it features commentary and opinion from across the political spectrum, and has expanded beyond the political sphere, with sections aggregating articles on sports, science, religion, energy, and markets.
McIntyre doesn't write much for his website, but is frequently interviewed on radio and television. He knows American politics cold.
Kevin Phillips was one of Richard Nixon's chief strategists in the 1968 election. He was the architect of the Republican Party's 'southern strategy' in the late 1960s. The Wall Street Journal described Phillips in 1982 as 'the leading conservative electoral analyst.'
Times change. In the last 10 years, and especially in his 2006 book, American Theocracy, Phillips heavily criticised the Republican Party for entering into an 'unholy alliance' with Big Oil and religious fundamentalists. And he has been an outspoken critic of the 'financialization' of the U.S. economy and American politics.
He is now a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times, NPR, and 'The Bill Moyers Journal' on PBS.
Pat Caddell worked for several Democratic presidential campaigns (George McGovern, 1972; Jimmy Carter, 1976 and 1980; Joe Biden, 1998), and was a key strategist in the Carter White House.
More recently, Caddell has distanced himself from the Democratic Party, winning the plaudits of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, David Horowitz, and others. He supported Ralph Nader in the 2000 election.
Much maligned for his tempestuous personality, Caddell is nevertheless a laser-sharp analyst of American politics. He has also been a paid consultant on several Hollywood films and television shows, including Air Force One and 'The West Wing.'
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.