Starred Review. There's a certain degree of setting the record straight in this attempt to tell the true (or truer) story of Barry Goldwater's failed 1964 presidential campaign. Middendorf was a central figure in the "draft Goldwater" movement, and although he went on to tremendous success in politics (he was RNC treasurer for Nixon's 1968 victory, Secretary of the Navy, and Ambassador to the Netherlands), he views the '64 campaign as a watershed both personally and for the Republican party. It also serves as an intriguing parallel to the current political moment: even with an unpopular war brewing in Vietnam, urban crime and unrest on the rise, a less-than-ideal president at the helm, and signs that most Americans were ready for a change, the GOP wasn't able to counter the seemingly unstoppable Democratic machine with anything more than a "we're not them" message. Despite the ultimate failure of the Goldwater campaign, Middendorf argues, it succeeded in bringing together the best and the brightest American conservatives, who forged a vision of what the Republican party could be if they were in control-a vision carried out in the sustained success of the Republican party from 1968 to the present. This is an important book for readers of any political stripe, pulling back the curtain of a full-steam-ahead presidential campaign and demonstrating how the strength of a party ultimately rests on its ability to articulate a coherent, meaningful and positive message. If Republicans wish to extend their success-and if Democrats wish to make recent gains last-they would do well to heed the lessons Middendorf presents here.
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