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In January 1973, for the first time in American history, principal participants in a major election met to discuss the science and the art of campaign strategy: the planning, calculation, contrivance, miscalculation, and mischance that determine what the electorate sees. Here campaign managers, pollsters, and journalists met to compare notes on their techniques and tactics and on their successes and failures as they reviewed the events of the primaries and election:
- The poor decisions made in the face of complex state primary laws;
- The decline of Muskie and the rise of McGovern;
- The significance of issues versus Nixon’s image;
- The effects of party reform on the Democratic convention;
- The credentials fights;
- The twists of strategy during the final months of the campaign;
- The way the press covered the campaign and how reporters were treated by the various staffs;
- The lessons for 1976 drawn by reporters and campaign people.
The straightforward exchanges took place at the Harvard Conference on Campaign Decision-Making. Eighteen key people participated, including those in the campaigns of Nixon, McGovern, Wallace, Muskie, Humphrey, Jackson, and McCloskey. Four political correspondents—David Broder, James Naughton, Al Otten, and James Perry—expertly guided the conversation, probing for additional insights.
The transcript of the conference—oral history at its best—has been carefully edited and makes absorbing reading. Included are brief sketches of the participants, a chronology of major events of the campaign, tables of campaign statistics, and a full index.