... exhaustively researched and lucidly written ... Gellman’s insistence that White’s mythic version of events survives unchallenged seems overdrawn ... While Campaign of the Century primarily serves to deliver a well-constructed and impeccably documented narrative of the election, the contention that few other accurate accounts exist, and that those that do exist have been routinely ignored, remains a central thesis of the book. Gellman’s does not contain his critical lit review within a foreword or an epilogue; it’s a constant ... One signature strength of Campaign of the Century is that Gellman provides a clear-eyed, and always rigorously researched examination of Richard Nixon exactly where he was in time, without the future bleeding in. If Campaign of the Century somewhat too often pits Nixon’s rhetoric against Kennedy’s record to establish that the vice president consistently took the higher road, always outspent but never outclassed—well, turnabout is fair play ... The book provides excellent analysis and blow-by-blow of the legendary presidential debates, and makes a characteristically cogent case that Teddy White’s influential narrative (many times debunked by now) is deeply flawed, and presents ample evidence that the impact of the debates on the election’s outcome have been generally overdrawn ... provides invaluable depth of insight on Richard Nixon at three critical stages of his career. What’s more, Gellman’s steadfast refusal to psychoanalyze the most complex and confounding president of the 20th century—a tendency most writers are helpless to resist—is both surprising and surprisingly refreshing, and that alone would make Campaign of the Century essential reading.
Gellman has, arguably, logged more hours and examined more documents in the Nixon archives than any other historian to date. That doggedness, he says, has yielded new information and insights into the events of 1960. There is much ballyhooing in this book of its author’s willingness to follow facts wherever they lead ... What is surprising about this buildup — this raising of stakes and throwing down of gauntlets — is that Campaign of the Century is largely a conventional, Nixon-friendly take on the race. Books of this kind are fewer, to be sure, than books by Kennedy partisans, but Gellman’s is hardly alone on the shelf ... Gellman’s thumb is firmly on the scales — or in Kennedy’s eye. From the book’s first pages, Kennedy is cynical and callow, the unscrupulous son of an unscrupulous father. Gellman is at pains to establish that Kennedy was not a family man but a philanderer, that he was not in fine health but was hobbled by Addison’s disease and back problems ... As a political narrative, Campaign of the Century is strangely lacking in both politics and narrative. It dutifully records the clashes of candidates but offers little context for their disagreements... Gellman places his man in the middle, but gives no sense of whether this moderation was ideological or tactical. All is left a muddle while the author sprints off in pursuit of historians who have overhyped Kennedy’s performance in the televised debates ... the white whale here is proof of a stolen election. This book does not provide it. The case it puts forward is circumstantial — and nothing new.
... as detailed an exploration of the 1960 presidential race as can be found. [Gellman's] bibliography and endnotes encompass fully 125 pages. In lean prose and a hammering style, he presents a catalog of complaints designed to present Nixon as the victim of hostile reporters, rabid partisans and biased historians. ... There are elements of truth in this account ... This revisionist tract is sure to kick up controversy. But it’s worth noting that nothing ever stays the same for long in public life. Just eight years after that 1960 campaign, the world was a different place: Kennedy was dead; Lyndon Johnson, having hit the shoals of Vietnam, retired from politics; and the American people turned to the opposition Republicans.
Gellman complains that too many chroniclers have conducted research at the JFK library in Boston but have neglected to plumb the files at the other presidential libraries. I had the sense throughout that the several chips on Gellman’s shoulder enliven this narrative and contribute to its urgency ... Gellman is successful in dispelling the notion that Nixon was an incompetent campaigner ... seems a conclusion reached by those who believe dramatic opposing forces faced off with each other, Kennedy out-performed Nixon, and the Democratic party established a youthful basis for its future. The televised debates were an innovation. But the phrase seems un-Gellmanesque.