The Route to the Top

THE WINNER

Jimmy Carter won with a combination of grit, driving ambition, daring if flawed political planning and a generous measure of good luck. As a campaigner, he struck many voters as more enigmatic than charismatic, as more of a trimmer than a visionary—and perhaps not really likable enough. In the end, he did not so much win the presidency as avoid losing it.

For a while it looked as if he would win by a landslide. After eight years of Republican rule—which included, along with many accomplishments, Viet Nam, Watergate, the recession—Americans seemed tired...

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