Taking a line from ""the wunderkind of American politics,"" Jimmy Carter's political pollster Pat Cadell, Blumenthal has wrapped this collection of interviews with today's hot political consultants around a thesis: that, with the decline of political parties, politicians must run all the time to stay in office, hence ""the permanent campaign""--waged not only through the mass media, but also via computer-based polling and mailing techniques. Hence the political consultants, who are not mere technicians, but ""also deal in strategic imperatives."" (""Which issue to emphasize and which to ignore must fit the overall scheme constructed by the consultants."") And, whether or not this combination of image-making and calculation is, as Blumenthal claims, ""the political ideology of our age,"" his introduction is a quick lesson in what to look out for. Then comes a lead-in chapter on PR pioneer Edward L. Bernays, nephew of Freud, which amusingly stresses that connection (""Freud thought. . . I was applying to the mass what he was applying to the individual""). There follows Cadell's theory of voter alienation (""which he also calls 'malaise' "") and how he applied it in the 1976 campaign, primary by primary; the career of street-smart, media-wise David Garth, from charismatic John Lindsay to ""Little Ed"" Koch; and the doings of others best known on their own turf. Chicago ""social activist"" Don Rose propelled Jane Byrne into office by (in the words of Studs Turkel) using Daley to beat Daley; commercials-producer Tony Schwartz eschews ""a simple pitch"" for ""Rohrschach patterns"" (like the notorious daisiesand-mushroom-cloud LBJ blast against Goldwater). But Jerry Brown, ""who considers himself an event,"" needs no consultant. With his wind-up piece on Teddy Kennedy and his coterie of oldoline politicos, Blumenthal may be both right and wrong. But there's no consistency here anyhow--just strong, timely, relevant impressions.