Syndicated columnist Witcover (Marathon) is a veteran chronicler of the Nixon/Agnew transgressions--and his first novel suffers from a thin, contrived plot that pits an idealistic (though downbeat) syndicated columnist against an overdrawn Nixon/Agnew-style villain. The columnist is middle-aging Mike Webb, half of a famous investigative-reporting team that's about to break up: Mike's young partner, rich and handsome Tom Sturdivant, is quitting the team to manage the presidential-primary campaign of his senator brother--the only man who might be able to fend off the outrageous comeback of that charismatic reactionary and vengeful press-hater, ex-President Edwin Hacker, who was driven out of office by the reporting of Webb & Sturdivant. So off they all go to New Hampshire for the primary campaign: the Sturdivant brothers, the Hackers (Mrs. H, is a weary showpiece who must put up with her hubby's shameless infidelities), and crusty Webb--who has promoted his beautiful assistant Nora to full partnership in the column (despite her lack of experience and despite her still being Tom's inamorata). Nora turns out to have no discernible talent at writing the column, but, when Webb's wife leaves him (fed up with neglect), Nora--who has parted from Tom to avoid conflict-of-interest--rekindles Webb's sexuality and herself enjoys her first orgasm (""The Big O""). And then, mid-primary, Nora gets a chance to make a more concrete contribution to the column: one of Hacker's slimy ""dirty tricks"" operatives offers to turn traitor, supplying evidence of new Hacker misdeeds, and Nora leaps at this bait--an obvious (to the reader) trap to discredit the Webb column. Despite Webb's ultimate embarrassment, the pro-press bias here is too insistently leaned upon, and Hacker is a cartoon monster. Still, the gritty, motel-to-motel campaign atmosphere is convincing--and Witcover pads engagingly here and there with old Nixon/Agnew anecdotes.