This will have to do until something more challenging and less cliche-ridden comes along, but Stroud's protracted story of how Jimmy and the Peanut Brigade smiled and blitzed their way to the White House could make you wish for another installment of Theodore White, or, at the other extreme, black-humored Hunter Thompson. It is a highly personal/zed version of the ""Christo-centric"" character who, in Jody Powell's words, the news people ""just don't trust."" Stroud, a former Washington correspondent for Women's Wear Daily, saturates the reader with the family: Uncle Buddy the racist, sister Ruth the evangelist, sister Gloria who rides motorcycles; Brother Billy the good ole boy who drinks beer at the filling station; Amy (""a female Huckleberry Finn"") and Miz Lillian: ""She was Ethel Barrymore, Greta Garbo, and Bishop Fulton Sheen wrapped in one."" Then she does the same kind of facile characterology for the ""Georgia Mafia"" that put the show on the road from Iowa to Florida. They are a complete contrast to J.C.: ""irreligious, undisciplined, arrogant, disorganized, rowdy, and non-ideological."" How did they win? By rising with the crows, not writing off a single state, campaigning indefatigably for 22 months, and budgeting their money closely--as other post-electoral analysts have told us. Stroud adds that ""Carter understood that this was the year of the non-issue,"" though how unemployment, energy shortages, and inflation can be ""non-issues"" is a mystery. Nor does she account for the steady erosion of Carter's lead toward the end of the campaign. Still, he won. ""Simplistically, he was the right man for the right time."" And that's as much wisdom as you'll find here.