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Nonfiction in Brief

Profiles of Power How the Governors Run Our 50 States, by Allen h. Neuharth : with Ken Paulson and Phil Pruitt (USA Today Books, Gannett Co Inc., Washington D.C. 20044:$9.95)

October 16, 1988|Alex Raksin

Gannett's new book-publishing venture is enough to frighten bibliophiles who prefer books with words to those with pictures, and the origin of this book won't do much to set these readers at ease. Instead of simply profiling America's governors, the USA Today team embarked on a 50-state "Buscapade," traveling conspicuously down the highway in a blue-and-white motor home with a musical horn playing all the state songs--as well as the theme from "Rocky." The gimmick was smart marketing, of course, placing the newspaper--as well as the governors--in high profile--but "Buscapade," an earlier book offering upbeat profiles of the states during the adventure, performed dismally in bookstores.

Neuharth thus has narrowed his focus in this book, and to good effect, for "Profiles of Power" spotlights some important changes in the character of state leadership in the last decade: For one, the "baby-kissing wheeler-dealer," as the authors write, has largely been replaced by the corporate CEO-type manager. Neuharth's profiles also reflect the governors' new, surprising global mobility as they try to lure foreign corporations to their states: Thirty-six governors visited Japan in 1987, for instance. Interviews with candidates could have been more probing and critical even in the small space allocated, however, and the implicit claim that a new and more representative generation of governors is now in office seems overstated: Only four governors are not white males, for example, and 10 don't have college degrees. This is, nevertheless, a concise, informative book, with engaging profiles of styles, from the "New England reserve" of Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin to the "methodical marketing" of Michigan's James Blanchard.

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