Presidential Election of 1960

The Democratic Party's candidate John F. Kennedy won the presidential election held in the United Stated in 1960. The election was the 44th presidential election and took place on November 8, 1960.

The result saw Kennedy, a Senator from Massachusetts, win against the Republican Party's nominee Richard Nixon with a lead of 112,827 votes, which was equal to 0.1 percent of the popular vote. Kennedy's victory in the Electoral Collage was 303 against 219, which was the closest since 1916. The term of office began on January 20, 1961 and ended on January 20, 1965. Kennedy served from 1961 until his assassination in November 1963. Lyndon Baines Johnson succeeded to the presidency following the assassination of Kennedy and completed his term.

Kennedy's campaign for president in the Democratic primary election started on January 2, 1960. His main opponents were Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota and Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon. He defeated Humphrey in Wisconsin and West Virginia and Morse in Maryland and Oregon. Kennedy's victory in West Virginia, predominantly conservative and Protestant state, confirmed his broad popular appeal. Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas was the other main opponent in the primary election. On July 13, however, the Democratic convention elected Kennedy its candidate.

The Republican Party's candidate was Nixon, the Vice President of the United Stated during the term of Dwight D. Eisenhower. New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller seemed to be a serious challenge for the Republican Party nomination but Nixon faced little opposition in the Republican primary election after Rockefeller said he would not be a candidate for president. Nixon's running mate was Henry Cabot Lodge Jr, a former Senator from Massachusetts and United Nations ambassador. Nixon planned to tie his campaign more to foreign policy than to domestic issues and Lodge's foreign-policy career was suitable for the goal.

Kennedy's victory over Nixon in the election can be explained by a number of factors. The economic recession at that time affected the image of the Republican Party and the registered Democrats were 17 million more than the Republicans. Kennedy gained new votes from the Catholics in the country, as he was Roman Catholic. Nixon, in turn, was supported by Protestants votes. In many ways Kennedy's campaigning skills were better than Nixon's, who instead of focusing on the swing states, wasted time and energy to campaign in all states. Kennedy secured victory in the big cities, while running mate Johnson succeeded in the South

Hence, Richard Nixon won more individual states than his opponent, although Kennedy gained key states with many electoral votes. Kennedy at the age of 43 became the youngest person elected to the post and the first Catholic president. His candidacy raised many questions about the electability of a Catholic candidate, especially in the religious South. Kennedy, however, bet on a solid commitment to separate church and state and Nixon decided to focus more on Kennedy's inexperience to sit in the White House than his religion.

The four Kennedy-Nixon debates were the turning point of the campaign. They were the first presidential debates held on television. It is estimated that the first debate attracted 70 million viewers before the TV screens, while up to 20 million fewer viewers watched the three remaining debates. Political observers believed that Kennedy gained the first debate; Nixon gained the second and third debates, while the fourth one was the strongest performance for both opponents. In the first debate political observers argue that Nixon chose a wrong strategy as he had not completely recovered from a hospital stay and looked tired, pale and underweight and he refused to use make-up. By contrast, Kennedy appeared looking good, confident and relaxed during the debate.

Many Republicans saw the results as a big vote fraud. The party tried to overturn the results in Texas and Illinois, as well as in nine other states but it failed. If Nixon had succeeded in Texas and Illinois, he would have gained the vote. Kennedy gained in Illinois by less than 9,000 votes out of 4.75 million cast, while in Texan he won against Nixon by a narrow 51 percent to 49 percent or 46,000 votes. The States of Alabama and Georgia were also a controversial case. It was difficult to count the actual number of popular votes received by Nixon and Kennedy there due to the unusual election system in these states. Hawaii, Illinois, Missouri, California and New Jersey were the states with the closest margins.

Presidential Election of 1960: Selected full-text books and articles

The Great Debates: Kennedy vs. Nixon, 1960 By Sidney Kraus Indiana University Press, 1977
The Past and Future of Presidential Debates By Austin Ranney American Enterprise Institute, 1979
Librarian’s tip: Chap. One "Presidential Candidate 'Debates': What Can We Learn from 1960"
Abundance and Anxiety: America, 1945-1960 By Gary A. Donaldson Praeger Publishers, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "The Election of 1960 and the End of an Era"
The Press and the Modern Presidency: Myths and Mindsets from Kennedy to Election 2000 By Louis W. Liebovich Praeger, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. One "Myths of the 1960 Election"
The Pursuit of the White House: A Handbook of Presidential Election Statistics and History By G. Scott Thomas Greenwood Press, 1987
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Beyond the New Frontier: 1960-1984"
Becoming JFK: A Profile in Communication By Vito N. Silvestri Praeger, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Part III "Campaigning for the Presidency, 1956-1960"
20th Century Gothic: America's Nixon By Sherri Cavan Wigan Pier Press, 1979
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Campaigning in America"
Presidential Campaigns By Paul F. Boller Jr Oxford University Press, 1996 (Revised edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Forty-Four "1960: Kennedy and the New Frontier"
Elections: Personal Popularity in U.S. Presidential Elections By Wattenberg, Martin P Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 34, No. 1, March 2004
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Second Face of the Public Presidency: Presidential Polling and the Shift from Policy to Personality Polling By Jacobs, Lawrence R.; Burns, Melanie Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 34, No. 3, September 2004
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
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