The rumor that the '76 election was a match-up of media-made images will get a booster shot from Gold's spectator's chronicle. The Retired Flack, as he dubs himself, has a poor past performance record (he lobbied for Goldwater and Agnew), and his early prognostications for '76 were risible: Carter would pick Ted Kennedy for his VP; the Republicans would choose John Connally after a FordReagan deadlock. Which permits the hope that the diagnosis here is off base. Unfortunately, in his own glib and frenetic way, Gold bashes off many of the same aperÃ‡us laboriously arrived at by Jules Witcover (Marathon, p. 569). The election was produced, designed, scripted, and choreographed by men whose names will never be household words: Lyn Nofzinger, Stu Spencer, Ben Wattenberg, Frank Greet, Jerry Rafshoon, David Kennerly--the campaign coordinators, poll-watchers, ad men, and gag writers. Radical ""imagectomies"" failed to give sparkle to Scoop Jackson, couldn't make Wallace's wheelchair into a political asset. Nor did the image-doctors manage to make bumbling Jerry Ford ""Presidential"" enough. Carter, on the other hand, benefited from something called ""redneck chic"" and cleverly capitalized on a rhetoric and PR-style that was antirhetoric, anti-PR, and anti-politics. Despite the glory dreams of the flacks themselves, Gold dissociates himself from cultists who believe that image-peddlers, like the Mafia, are omnipotent. Some candidates, like some policies, won't play in Peoria or anywhere else, in accordance with the old adage, ""You can't squeeze blood into a turnip."" If you can stand the bebop style, Gold sets down the hyperkinetic hucksters peddling their wares, New Hampshire to Pennsylvania Avenue, from the shrewd vantage point of one who has played the game.