Farris explains how Barry Goldwater achieved the party realignment that had eluded FDR, how George McGovern paved the way for Barack Obama, and how Ross Perot changed the way all presidential candidates campaign. There is Al Smith, the first Catholic nominee for president; and Adlai Stevenson, the candidate of the "eggheads" who remains the beau ideal of a liberal statesman. Others covered by this book include Al Gore, John Kerry, and John McCain. The mini profiles also include evocative portraits of such men as John C. Fremont, the first Republican Party presidential candidate; and General Winfield Scott, whose loss helped guarantee the Union victory in the Civil War.
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Henry Clay of Kentucky was known as the Great Compromiser for his efforts to preserve the Union during the national controversy over slavery. Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois was a leader of the Democrats fighting to preserve the Union by tolerating slavery without supporting it. William Jennings Bryan was considered one of the most brilliant orators of his era, running three times for president as nominee of the Democratic Party. Barry Goldwater was a conservative senator from Arizona who captured the hearts and support of the conservative movement and was nominated for President in 1964. George McGovern, a senator from South Dakota, was nominated by the Democrats in 1972 as a peace candidate, but he lost heavily in November to Richard Nixon.