Jeffrey Alexander, a preeminent figure in social theory, offers here a new way of looking at democratic struggles for political power, discussing what happened, and why, during Barack Obama's remarkable run for president. Illustrated with vivid examples drawn from a range of media coverage, participant observation at a Camp Obama, and interviews with leading political journalists, Alexander argues that images, emotion, and performance are the central features of the battle for power. Winning depends on creating images so that candidates can become heroes. Demography, strategy, money, and issues matter, but power goes to the candidate with the most persuasive performances--the one whose carefully constructed heroic image resonates best with the audience of citizens. Though an untested Senator, Obama's moving performances succeeded in casting him as the hero and as the only candidate fit to lead in challenging times. As he sheds new light on modern politics, Alexander also conveys the immediacy and excitement of the final months of the historic 2008 presidential campaign.