Accepting the challenge that Theodore White laid out in The Making of the President 1960: to “tell the story of the quest for power in 1960 in more precise terms with a greater wealth of established fact.”
In this successful acceptance of White’s challenge, Pulitzer Prize–winning Boston Globe journalist Oliphant (Utter Incompetents: Ego and Ideology in the Age of Bush, 2007, etc.) and former Globe foreign correspondent Wilkie (Journalism/Univ. of Mississippi; The Fall of the House of Zeus: The Rise and Ruin of America's Most Powerful Trial Lawyer, 2010) begin before John F. Kennedy’s run to be Adlai Stevenson’s running mate in 1956. Although popular opinion claims that JFK’s father directed his decisions and campaigns, JFK was always in charge and not afraid to oppose or ignore his father. He surrounded himself with shrewd advisers whose philosophy was brash and very successful. Most importantly to his later success, JFK started early. Then he bypassed the party bosses and labor unions and set up representatives in small towns to build support and lists of contacts. He and his team knew how to work the grass-roots strategy, giving tea parties for women, circulating petitions, and, most importantly, using TV ads. One of the first to closely monitor public opinion, JFK was handsome and popular, and the press loved his quotable accessibility. However, he was no shoo-in. His record in the Senate was weak, and his meek responses to Joe McCarthy worked against him. Race and religion were major undercurrents throughout the race, and the lead flipped back and forth multiple times. White was spot-on in his prediction of the availability of new information. Oliphant and Wilkie mined a wealth of fresh material to show how Kennedy approached his campaign in innovative ways. The authors impressively navigate all the new information to present a compelling story, easily shifting geographically and supplying background vital to understanding the whole picture.
An excellent chronicle of JFK’s innovations, his true personality, and how close he came to losing.