There's no shortage of books recounting Ronald Reagan's 1980 unseating of Jimmy Carter and the transformational presidency that followed, but none yet has focused solely on his 1976 primary challenge to Gerald Ford.
This tirelessly researched, well-written book by conservative public affairs maven Craig Shirley proves a satisfying first entry.
Shirley is a well-known fan of Reagan's, and his office houses one of the richer collections of Reagan memorabilia. But this is no fawning tribute, as are many Reagan tomes. Shirley closely explores the many factors that moved the reluctant Reagan to take on his party's standard bearer - a rarity in modern politics.
In so doing, Shirley tells another story: that of the modern conservative movement, which in 1976 was, at best, a fringe group within a gasping GOP. As Shirley tells it, Reagan's 1976 challenge from the right helped give voice and legitimacy to an ideological force that, nearly 30 years later, not only dominates the party, but all of US politics.
Title Reagan's Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All
Author Craig Shirley
Publisher Nelson Current (January 2005), 417 pages
Reviewed by Douglas Quenqua