Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics is a 1996 book by columnist Joe Klein—published anonymously—about the presidential campaign of a southern governor. It is a roman à clef (a work of fiction based on real people and events) about Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign in 1992. It was adapted as a film of the same name in 1998.
The book begins as an idealistic former congressional worker, Henry Burton, joins the presidential campaign of southern governor Jack Stanton, a thinly disguised stand-in for Bill Clinton. The plot then follows the primary election calendar beginning in New Hampshire where Stanton’s affair with Cashmere, his wife’s hairdresser, and his participation in a Vietnam War era protest come to light and threaten to derail his presidential prospects. In Florida, Stanton revives his campaign by disingenuously portraying his Democratic opponent as insufficiently pro-Israel and as a weak supporter of Social Security. Burton becomes increasingly disillusioned with Stanton, who is a policy wonk who talks too long, eats too much and is overly flirtatious toward women. Stanton is also revealed to be insincere in his beliefs, saying whatever will help him to win. Matters finally come to a head, and Burton is forced to choose between idealism and realism.
I liked this book but I i liked more if the book were more dynamic.