Lyndon B. Johnson: The Exercise of Power

By Rowland Evans; Robert Novak | Go to book overview
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Chapter XXI IN SEARCH OF A RECORD

It has been suggested that if be [ Johnson] learned on the morning of November 4 that he had lost ten states, be might decline to serve, saying that he just didn't want to be President unless he could be President of all the people.

-- Richard H. Rovere in The Goldwater Caper

Campaigning in Indiana early in October, 1964, Lydon Johnson flew the short hop from East Chicago to Indianapolis with Matthew Welsh, the Democratic Governor of Indiana, as his guest aboard Air Force One. Not since Franklin D. Roosevelt beat Alf Landon in 1936 had a Democratic candidate for President carried Indiana. Not since Harry Truman came within striking distance of Thomas E. Dewey in 1948 had the presidential contest there been close. Now, a beaming Welsh carried glad tidings for his party's leader. Based on his own political survey of the state, the Governor predicted the President would carry Indiana with a comfortable 55 percent of the vote. Johnson's face darkened at the news. "God, that's close," he said without a trace of humor.

Thus, the presidential campaign of 1964 was a contest not just for victory, for Johnson's victory was assured on July 16 at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco. The very moment the party's right wing seized control for the first time since 1924, ignored the consensus, and nominated Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, the November result was assured. The campaign for President, 1964, was never a contest at all, as ill-matched as Harding and Cox in 1920, or Roosevelt and Landon in 1936.

The Republican nominee was running not only against Johnson but also the ghost of John F. Kennedy and the tragedy of Dallas. It is doubtful that any Republican nominee would have had much chance, but certainly not Goldwater, who was beaten almost 2 to 1 in public-

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