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The Road to Camelot
Cover of The Road to Camelot
The Road to Camelot
Inside JFK's Five-Year Campaign
“A must-read for fans of presidential history.” —USA TODAY

“Splendid…a gripping, authoritative campaign history.” —The Boston Globe

“Terrific…a tougher and more balanced account of the long campaign than anybody’s written yet.” —The Christian Science Monitor

A behind-the-scenes, revelatory account of John F. Kennedy’s wily campaign to the White House, beginning with his bold, failed attempt to win the vice presidential nomination in 1956. A young and undistinguished junior plots his way to the presidency and changes the way we nominate and elect presidents.
John F. Kennedy and his young warriors invented modern presidential politics. They turned over accepted wisdom that his Catholicism was a barrier to winning an election and plotted a successful course to that constituency. They hired Louis Harris—a polling entrepreneur—to become the first presidential pollster. They twisted arms and they charmed. They lined up party bosses, young enthusiasts, and fellow Catholics and turned the traditional party inside out. The last-minute invitation to Lyndon B. Johnson for vice president in 1956 surprised them only because they had failed to notice that he wanted it. They invented The Missile Gap in the Cold War and out-glamoured Richard Nixon in the TV debates.

Now acclaimed, award-winning journalists Tom Oliphant and Curtis Wilkie provide the most comprehensive account, based on a depth of personal reporting, interviews, and archives. The authors have examined more than 1,600 oral histories at the John F. Kennedy library; they’ve interviewed surviving sources, including JFK’s sister Jean Smith, and they draw on their own interviews with insiders including Ted Sorensen and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

From the start of the campaign in 1955 when his father tried to persuade President Johnson to run with JFK as his running mate, The Road to Camelot reveals him as a tough, shrewd political strategist who kept his eye on the prize. This is one of the great campaign stories of all time, appropriate for today’s political climate.
“A must-read for fans of presidential history.” —USA TODAY

“Splendid…a gripping, authoritative campaign history.” —The Boston Globe

“Terrific…a tougher and more balanced account of the long campaign than anybody’s written yet.” —The Christian Science Monitor

A behind-the-scenes, revelatory account of John F. Kennedy’s wily campaign to the White House, beginning with his bold, failed attempt to win the vice presidential nomination in 1956. A young and undistinguished junior plots his way to the presidency and changes the way we nominate and elect presidents.
John F. Kennedy and his young warriors invented modern presidential politics. They turned over accepted wisdom that his Catholicism was a barrier to winning an election and plotted a successful course to that constituency. They hired Louis Harris—a polling entrepreneur—to become the first presidential pollster. They twisted arms and they charmed. They lined up party bosses, young enthusiasts, and fellow Catholics and turned the traditional party inside out. The last-minute invitation to Lyndon B. Johnson for vice president in 1956 surprised them only because they had failed to notice that he wanted it. They invented The Missile Gap in the Cold War and out-glamoured Richard Nixon in the TV debates.

Now acclaimed, award-winning journalists Tom Oliphant and Curtis Wilkie provide the most comprehensive account, based on a depth of personal reporting, interviews, and archives. The authors have examined more than 1,600 oral histories at the John F. Kennedy library; they’ve interviewed surviving sources, including JFK’s sister Jean Smith, and they draw on their own interviews with insiders including Ted Sorensen and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

From the start of the campaign in 1955 when his father tried to persuade President Johnson to run with JFK as his running mate, The Road to Camelot reveals him as a tough, shrewd political strategist who kept his eye on the prize. This is one of the great campaign stories of all time, appropriate for today’s political climate.
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About the Author-
  • Thomas Oliphant is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and Washington columnist for The Boston Globe. A regular commentator on PBS NewsHour, he is the author of four books, including The Road to Camelot. Al Franken says “Oliphant brings more to the table than anyone I know.” Madeline Albright called him “the Will Rogers of our times.” Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote that his book Praying for Gil Hodges was a “small masterpiece.”
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    Starred review from March 15, 2017
    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.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    December 1, 2016
    Washington columnist for the Boston Globe, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Oliphant joins with Globe national reporter Wilkie to show how John F. Kennedy and his support staff invented the modern presidential campaign. Resources include over 1,600 oral histories at the John F. Kennedy Library.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Inside JFK's Five-Year Campaign
Thomas Oliphant
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