Books about U.S. presidential elections?
January 9, 2007 6:31 PM   Subscribe

What are some good books about U.S. presidential elections?

There are lots of books about American presidents, but not so many specifically about elections/campaigns. What are the good ones? (Example. I haven't read it, but it's the kind of book I'm looking for.)
posted by Silune to Law & Government (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Allow me to be the first to suggest Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, and The Boys on the Back on the Bus.
posted by Bookhouse at 6:42 PM on January 9, 2007

My personal favorite is Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail.
posted by jamaro at 6:45 PM on January 9, 2007

3rd for F&L:OtCT
posted by BeerFilter at 6:48 PM on January 9, 2007

Paul Boller, who gave us the thoroughly enjoyable Presidential Anecdotes, has also done Presidential Campaigns, which I haven't read but would expect to be at least decent. It's from the Oxford University Press; does that still mean something in this day and age?
posted by kimota at 7:04 PM on January 9, 2007

Just a nitpick, but it's The Boys on the Bus, by Timothy Crouse, not the back of the bus. And it is, indeed, an excellent book about the evolution of modern presidential campaign journalism.
posted by Eldritch at 7:04 PM on January 9, 2007

And for an interesting set of perspectives about one campaign, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, Boys on the Bus, and Making of the President '72 by Theodore White are all about the same campaign, and present very different perspectives on the same events. And in the case of Boys, on each others' authors.
posted by Eldritch at 7:10 PM on January 9, 2007

See How They Run is pretty terrific, about the 1988 election.
Primary Colors is also great (a thinly fictionalized version of 92).
posted by poxuppit at 7:29 PM on January 9, 2007

Adams vs. Jefferson. Is a wonderful account of a truly brutal election and America's first real Presidential election. It's a quick read, too.
posted by Kronoss at 8:28 PM on January 9, 2007

It's about a very specific, unusual one, but The Accidental President is a great look at 2000 in Florida, and has some information about the campaign staffs of Gore and Bush
posted by stevis23 at 8:29 PM on January 9, 2007

All's Fair in Love, War and Running for President is interesting. Mary Matalin ran George Bush's campaign and James Carville ran Bill Clinton's campaign. Oh yeah, and they are married to each other.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:27 PM on January 9, 2007

I found "History of American Presidential elections, 1789-1984". Edited by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., excellent when I was doing a paper on campaign humor. It's full of primary documents, most of which are insanely interesting, and a fair amount of context and analysis around them (though not all that much). But it's totally awesome to see, say, the newspaper accounts of President Jackson essentially being called a whoremonger (an allegation that is credited with killing his wife, something Jackson never forgave), etc.
posted by klangklangston at 9:36 PM on January 9, 2007

I would second Primary Colors.
I know you said presidential elections, but if you don't mind branching out a bit, one of the most fascinating election stories comes out of the 1948 Democratic primary for U.S. Senator from Texas, between Lyndon Johnson and Coke Stevenson. This is covered in exquisite detail in Robert Caro's Means of Ascent.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 11:29 PM on January 9, 2007

The Making of the President, about the 1960 presidential election between Kennedy and Nixon, was groundbreaking, and is the model for all such books that followed. What's more, it is fascinating and compassionate.
posted by curtm at 11:35 PM on January 9, 2007


'The Selling of the President, 1968'

There's some stuff in all the Clinton bio/hagiographies (Stephanopoulos' 'All Too Human', Klein's 'The Natural', Maraniss' 'First in his Class').

I second 'The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Means of Ascent' (as well as the other parts, and let's hope part IV comes out soon): one of the most fascinating books on politics I've ever read.
posted by NekulturnY at 12:32 AM on January 10, 2007

Read up on the Hayes-Tilden election of 1876, "The most disputed election in the United States." (There's a bibliography at the end of the Wikipedia article.) William Rehnquist published a book about it in 2004 that is, in my opinion, nothing but an exercise in historical apologia for Bush v. Gore.
posted by footnote at 6:43 AM on January 10, 2007

I'll also throw in my pro Fear and Loathing on The Campaign trail vote. But I'd also like to recommend "Leap Year" by Steve Erickson, it actually captures the country's turn to religion rather well, though it occassional dips into postmodernism.
posted by drezdn at 6:57 AM on January 10, 2007

Thirteen Keys to the Presidency, by Allan Lichtman - evaluates every presidential election based on certain factors and predicts the winners (after the fact, obviously) but he's been right about the last few, on the popular vote.
posted by pithy comment at 8:33 AM on January 10, 2007

Can't leave out race! Very good, academic read on race in Presidential elections from 1960-2000.
posted by j-urb at 11:47 AM on January 10, 2007

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