United States Elections: Presidential Elections (1960)


Figure 1.--Senator Humprey was on of the principal candidates for the 1960 Democratic nomination. He faced Senstor Kennedy in several important porinaries, including the Wisconsin primary. The press photo here was taken in Madison on April 4, 1960 during the primary season. The caption was headed, "You said a moutful, son". It read, "Sharing popcorn with a couple of boys is campaigning Sen. Hunert H. Humprey toiday during visit to the Wisconsin capital. The Minnesota democrat stopped to pass the time of saywith Jack Wake, ;eft, 13, who was munching a bag of poporn. While this was going on, another teenager wandered into rang, interested in getting close to a man who seeks to become president." This was a scene that you would not have seen with Senastor Kennedy. His time was much moreceffectively managed by his staff.

Senator Kennedy's book Profiles in Courage and his good looks and carisma helped make him a star in the Democratic Party. He was a much sought after speaker in Democratic events, helping to build contats throughout the country. This made him an early front-runner when he announced his candidacy. It was to have a major impact on American politics. One major innovation was Kennedy's skillful use of television. And he helped break the religious issue wide open. He was the first successful Catholic candidate for the presidency. He also revolutionized how presidential candidates ran their campaigns. Candidates before the 1960 election financed their efforts to obtain the nomimation. Than the campaign was largely financed by their party. Kennedy changed this. The failure of the Democratic Party to match the fund raiding prowess of the pro-business Republicans was a factor in several Demnocratic losses. Senator Kennedy was blessed with a wealthy father whose financial support had been a major factor in his Congressional and Senatorial campaigns and in winning the Democrativ nomination--especially the primary victories over rival Senator Hubert Humprey. Ambassador Kennedy had reportedly spent over $1 million even befor the 1960 primary season. Kennedy's innovation was a highly organized campaign staff. Knnedy set up a 9-room headquarters near Capitol Hill. From here staffers made contact with Party leaders all over the country, especially Party bosses and potential convention delegates. Large wall maps plotted the successes. The headquarters was essentially a corportae effot including not just political experts, but accountants, lawyers, and communicatiins specialists. A byword for successful campaign staffs became a rapid resppnse to events and moves by the opposing camp. Kennedy made the "Missle Gap" a major issue in the campaign. He over emphasized the Soviet lead, but correctly assessed the importance of the developing Space Race.

Democratic Candidates

Senator Kennedy's book Profiles in Courage and his good looks and carisma helped make him a star in the Democratic Party. He was a much sought after speaker in Democratic events, helping to build contacts throughout the country. This made him an early front-runner when he announced his candidacy. It was to have a major impact on American politics. One major innovation was Kennedy's skillful use of television. And he helped break the religious issue wide open. He was the first successful Catholic candidate for the presidency. He also revolutionized how presidential candidates ran their campaigns. Candidates before the 1960 election financed their efforts to obtain the nomimation. Than the campaign was largely financed by their party. Kennedy changed this. The failure of the Democratic Party to match the fund raising prowess of the pro-business Republicans was a factor in several Demnocratic losses. Senator Kennedy was blessed with a wealthy father whose financial support had been a major factor in his Congressional and Senatorial campaigns. Senator Hubert Humprey from Minnesota was a major force in liberal wing of the Democratic Party. He lacked, however, the Kennedy charisma and the Kennedy money. Senator Lyndon Johnson also aspired to presidency.

Democratic Primaries

The Kennedy family wealth was a factor winning the Democratic nomination--especially in the primaries. Ambassador Kennedy had reportedly spent over $1 million even befor the 1960 primary season. Kennedy's innovation was a highly organized campaign staff. Knnedy set up a 9-room headquarters near Capitol Hill. From here staffers made contact with Party leaders all over the country, especially Party bosses and potential convention delegates. Large wall maps plotted the successes. The headquarters was essentially a corportae effot including not just political experts, but accountants, lawyers, and communicatiins specialists. A byword for successful campaign staffs became a rapid resppnse to events and moves by the opposing camp. Senator Kennedy entered seven primaries and won each one of them. His victory in West Virginia was particularly important becasuse the state had almost no Catholic voters. This showed that his Catholcism would not prevent him from winning the election.

Democratic Convention

Senator Kennedy's primary victories were not eough to carry the convention, but they gave him an important edge. He thus arrived at the Democratic convention at Los Angeles as the front runner. An effective organization run by his brother Roibert won him the nomination at the convention. It was Senator Kennedy over his brother's objections offered the vice-presidential nomination to Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson from Texas. Senator Kennedy in his acceptance speech said, "We stand today on the verge on a new frontier--the frontier of the 1960's a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils--a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats." The New Frontier would become the name for his administration.

Republican Candidates

President Roosevelt's four election victories concerned the Republicans and some Democrats. As a result the 22nd Amendment ws ratified (1951). This essentially codified the two term tradition. It meant that President Dwight D. Eisenhower could not run for a third term, although given his helth it is unlikely that he would have chosen to do so. As the campaign began to shape up in 1959, it looked like New York Govenor Nelso Riockefeller who had aiberal record would challenge Vice President Richard Nixon. Rocjkefeller found, hoever, after a nation-wide swing, that his brand of liberal Reoublicanism did not have much appeal within the party outside of Ne York and the northeast, especially in the South and West. He announced that he woukd not be a candidate.

Republican Primaries

Unlike tghe hotly contested Democratic nomination contest, Vice-President Nixon emerged as the Party's choice from a vert early point. After Govenor Rockefeller announced that he would not be a candidate, the Vice-President faced no serious opposition in the primaries.

Republican Convention

The Republicans at their National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, enthusiastically nominated Vice President Nixon. There was no serious opposition. Nixon had an ant-Communist record, but he was not ataunch conservative. The most promiant conservative in the Party was Arizona senator Barry Goldwater. He received 10 delegate viots as a kind of conservative protest. Nixon did not attempt to placate the conservatives. He chose former Massachusetts Senator and United Nations Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. or his vice-presidential running mate. Lodge was not deeply involved in the debates in domestic issues during the 1950s. He did have extensive experience in foreign affairs. And Nixon intended to pursue foreign policy issues as part of his campaign. Anti-Communism was the area where he carved out his career and he wanted to make fireign policy issues the principa issues of the campaign. He believed that Senaror Kennedy ad the Democrats woukd have an advantge on domestic issues. Lodge was, however, Nixon's second choice. He had wanted Govenor Rockefelle, but the Givenor turndchim down. It is not entirely ckear why, but it is likely that Rockefeller did not want to serve under Nixon.

Sentator John Kennedy

John Kennedy grew up in a notable Irish Catholic family which was both wealthy and active politically. His grandfather Honey Fitz was an old style big city politican. His father was ariven man who made a firtune on Wall Street and bootlegging. His mother was a devout Catholic. He and his older brother were close in age abnd very competitive with Jack usually losing out. Their father was an early Roosevely supporter, but did not get the position he wanted in the administration. As Europe lurched toward war, Roosevelt appointed him ambasador to Great Britain. Ratherthan support the President's fireign policy, however, Ambasador Kennedy moved toward the isolationists opposing America aid to Britain against the NAZIs. This ended his political career and he began grooming his son Joe for the presidency. Joe was killed in the war, but Jack returned a war hero. nd Joe abd the family supported his political career. He began in the House of Representatives (1946). He arrived in Washington at the same time as Nixon who was also elected to the House of Representatives. Kennedy defeated Henry Cabet Lodge Jr, for a Massachusettes Senate seat (1952).

Vice-President Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon came to the Senate in the sme year class as Senator Kennedy/ Their backgriunds were very different. Nixin came from a famiky of modest means and was aelf0made man. He made his name after Worlkd war II as an anti-Communist crusader. As a result he becme a very controversial figure in American politic, despised by liberals and the more radical left. Here the political environment was complex. Some Republicans engaged in red baiting, accusing individuals of being Communists abd Soviet sympethizers with very little evidence. Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy was the prominant example. Quite anumber if inviduals during the Deopression flirted with Communism. This prioved to be a way of ruining their careers in the hand of people like McCarthy. On the other hand, the Soviet Union had a very acive espionage program active in the United states anf this kincluded some individuals in the State Department and other positions of influence. Many liberals like frmer Vice President Henry Wallace discounted the dangers posed by the Soviet Union. Other Liberals failed to believe charges of treson even ehen there was overwealming evidence such as the case of the Rosenbergs. This was the milleau in which Nixon entered American politics. Nixon then ran for the Senate in California against a New Deal democratic liberal--Helen Gahagan Douglas (1950). It is at this time that Nixon begins to attract the ire of many liberals for what they saw as a dirty campaigner. Picking up on the growing anti-Communism in America, Nixon questioned his opponents patriotism with remarks like "The lady is pink down to her underwear." It is during this campaign that the appelege 'Triky Dicky' first appeared. Nixon became a prominent young spokesman for the resurgent Republican Party. He was particularly noted for procecuring Alger Hiss. For years the American Left insisted that Hiss was innocent, a victim of McCartyism. And that Nixon was a Red baiter in the McCarthy mold. We now know that Hiss was indeed a Soviet spy

The Campaign

The 1960 preidential campaign was a close-fought election which occurred at a critical point of the Cold war. Both Vice-President Nixon and Senator Kennedy pursued foreign policy themes in the campaign. Both advocated strong anti-Communist policies. Senator Kennedy constantly reinterated the theme of getting the country moving again. He made the "Missle Gap" a major issue in the campaign. He over emphasized the Soviet lead, but correctly assessed the importance of the developing Space Race. He also criticized the Eisenhower administration for allowing a Communist regime to seize power in Cuba. An important feature if the election was the first televised debates beetween the two candidates. Most observers believe that the debates were the deciding factor in Senator Kennedy's narrow election victory. Interestingly, perceptions were different depending on wheter voters wathed on television or listened on radio. Vice President Nixon ordered his staff not to bring up the question of Kennedy's Catholicm. The final analysis of the election showed that Kennedy's religion ended up helping him more with Catholic voters than it then it hurt him with Protetant voters. Nixon frequently criticized Kennedy for his inexperience. A major shift in black voting occurred. Reverand Martin Luther King was arrested in Atlanta, Senator Kennedy called to offer his sympathy. This gained Kennedy important support with Black voters in the indusrial northeast. Public opinion polls show that in the final days of the race, the gap between the two candidates began to narrow. A factor may have beem that President Eisenhower who had not been overly helpful to the vice-President began to campaign actively. The polls at the end of the campign accurately predicted a very close election.

Results

Senator Kennedy and Vice President Nixon almost evenly split the populae vote. Senator Kennedy won in the electoral vote by piecing ogether mist of the south with the industrial northeast and just enough of the midwest to win. Vice President Johnson was key to carrying the South. The Vice President carried almost all od the West and most of the Mid-West as well as some of the South. Senator Kennedy managed to hold most of the South in the Democratic column, although the election was the beginning of the southern drift from the Democrtic to the Republican Party.









CIH






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Created: 5:03 PM 6/5/2007
Last edited: 4:23 AM 3/7/2017