What is it about scandals in the midst of political campaigns that makes for headline news?
The reader will find that this is not a typical political campaign or a typical marriage. Joe is helped throughout the campaign by his family and his uncle, the retired US Senator Frank Murphy. Frank's savvy and political cronies do everything to help Joe. But it is Joe's grandmother, Agnus Murphy, that adds the motivating factor.
The reader should appreciate the political maneuvering that occurs in this congressional campaign with the national issues in the background. The important issue is not in just winning or losing, but evaluating individuals like Sullivan and Drake's function in our political system.
The Campaign of Joe Sullivan is a story that takes place in Cleveland, Ohio in 1976. While the country is still trying to heal from Watergate, a school teacher named Joe Sullivan is asked to run for Congress against a strong incumbent, Nigel Drake. The Democratic Party gives Sullivan little chance of winning. As a matter of fact, they didn't even put up a candidate against Drake in 1974 because even in the midst of the Watergate scandal, Drake's polls showed him to be unbeatable. However, this year the Democratic candidate for Governor has decided he wanted the Republicans to spend money and to assure a large Democratic turnout in Cleveland.
This story also revolves around the relationship between Joe Sullivan, an Irish Catholic, and his wife, Judith, who came from a wealthy Jewish family. Their relationship in the midst of religious prejudice from in-laws and the pressure of the campaign is vital to this story. Judith tries to support Joe in his campaign, but is disappointed with his lack of drive. Her relationship with her father is also an unresolved issue that Judith must deal with.
The campaign polls indicate Joe has little chance of winning. As Joe begins to show some gains, Drake slaps him down with political tricks just before the election.
Win or lose, Joe Sullivan has been changed by this campaign. Judith has also been changed with better insight into her husband. Circumstances also develop to bring her into personal contact with her father. Their interaction is emotional and one that greatly impacts how they see each other.