In this version of The Making of the President, Theodore White provides his usual in-depth analysis of a Presidential election, along with relevant socio-economic and cultural developments. The 1964 Presidential election was based squarely on ideology, as opposed to managerial competence. As Mr. White discusses, Democratic incumbent Lyndon Johnson stood for the idea that for every problem that existed in the USA, the federal govt. had a solution, while his Republican challenger, Sen. Barry Goldwater, saw the federal govt. as the major obstacle to American progress. This sharp ideological difference has often defined American politics since that time.
In addition, Mr. White sets out a coherent explanation of why President Johnson's election was a virtual certainty (along with a wide margin of victory), as Johnson wore the JFK mantle, and most Americans did not want to reject that mantle, at least not so quickly after JFK was assassinated. At the same time, Mr. White makes a genuine effort to portray Sen. Goldwater as being sincere in his views, and as being a decent though widely misunderstood candidate. He also points out that at many times, Sen. Goldwater was his own worst enemy, coming out with statements that played right into the hands of Democratic campaign strategists (i.e., his comments about letting NATO commanders decide when to use "tactical" nuclear weapons against Soviet forces).
Finally, Mr. White explains how this election was, in an important way, the first modern election that was fought along regional lines. For example, the Republicans focused much of their resources on the South (an ironic shift for the Party of Lincoln), while the Democrats began to solidify their growing dominance in much of the Northeast and Upper Midwest (overturning many traditional bastions of Republican strength). In many ways, this sectional division still exists today, with the existence of "Red" states and "Blue" states. This sectionalization has had mixed results for both parties.
I do wish that Mr. White would have given more attention to the increasing conflict in Vietnam, as it did appear on the political horizon around that time. He doesn't seem to give it that much attention, instead focusing on a number of other major issues. I wonder what his reason was for having done this. Another interesting omission is that of Ronald Reagan. Reagan had made a passionate speech on behalf of Sen. Goldwater, entitled "A Time for Choosing." It was a televised speech that, many political commentators argue, helped launch Mr. Reagan's political career. Perhaps Mr. White had not picked up Mr. Reagan on the radar screen at this time, though he discusses Mr. Reagan in his 1968 installment of The Making of the President (by then Mr. Reagan had been elected Governor of California).