Kennedy's Primary Campaigns:
Wisconsin and West Virginia, 1960
Kennedy entered seven primaries in the first six months of 1960, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Indiana, West Virginia, Maryland, Nebraska, and Oregon. Since 1900, several states had experimented with the primaries, but by 1960 only sixteen states had maintained the open primary system that allowed presidential hopefuls a direct vote of the people.
Wisconsin and West Virginia emerged as the most crucial tests for Kennedy, and they received greater media coverage and publicity than the other five contests. Wisconsin represented his first real test of strength outside New England. Could he win the rural vote of the state? What influence would his Catholicism have in industrial areas as well as with Republicans? Wisconsin was a crossover primary, one that allowed voters to cross party lines. Would he draw the Republican Catholics? As a testing ground for candidates, how would Kennedy fare against opponent Hubert Humphrey, a Minnesota neighbor popularly known as Wisconsin's "third Senator"? 1
The West Virginia primary represented a real contest in a state 95 percent Protestant. Even though a victory there would not bind the delegates to vote for Kennedy on the first ballot at the convention, it would prove that he could attract the Protestant vote.
Kennedy made three campaign tours throughout Wisconsin in February and early March and then appeared in a ten-day campaign operation in the state before the April 5th election.
Preliminary analysis indicated that Kennedy's strength in Wisconsin was clustered in industrial areas, primarily in southeastern Milwaukee County and northeast of Green Bay. Humphrey's strength reflected his over-the-border influence in the rural and lumbering areas adjacent to Minnesota. Political analysts were interested in learning if Humphrey could attract Republican farmers who were upset with Ezra Benson's agricultural