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  In The Year...1960
 

Presidential Election

In the closest finish since Benjamin Harrison defeated Grover Cleveland in 1888, on November 8, 1960, Democratic Senator John F. Kennedy won the presidency against Republican Vice-President Richard M. Nixon. He brought into office with him as his Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had been serving as Senate Majority Leader.

The Campaign

Kennedy had to contend with anti-Catholic sentiments throughout his campaign for the Democratic Party nomination, as well as his campaign for the presidency. On September 12, he told a televised meeting of the Greater Houston (Texas) Ministerial Association: "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute . . . . where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from . . . . (an) ecclestiastical source." Although some Republican leaders publicly questioned the wisdom of having a Roman Catholic President, Nixon did not consider Kennedy's religion to be a legitimate campaign issue.

The campaign itself was marked by the first ever appearance of the two candidates opposite each other on national television in what was billed as a series of four debates. Each candidate made an opening statement, after which they answered questions from newsmen. There were a few rebuttals, and a few re-rebuttals. Although Nixon came into the first debate with a reputation for being a good orator, his wan appearance and reluctance to argue with Kennedy's viewpoint marked him as the loser. Better makeup and a more forceful debating style made Nixon look and sound much better in the subsequent debates, and by the end of the fourth debate most political commentators "scored" the series as a draw.

A view of the studio in Washington, D.C., October 7, 1960, where Senator Kennedy (left) and Vice-President Nixon are engaged in the second of their four campaign debates. In the background is moderator Frank McGee. In the foreground are four newspapermen who asked the candidates questions.
second televised debate

Both candidates endured a strenuous schedule throughout the campaign. Both took advantage of jet airliners to cross the country multiple times. Nixon visited all 50 states, while Kennedy skipped Hawaii and five other states; Kennedy left most of the southern campaigning to his running mate. Kennedy employed the "whistle-stop" technique by train in California and Michigan, while Nixon used a train across Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois. Everywhere they went, each man tried to outdo the other in crowds and voter enthusiasm. When Kennedy was treated to a ticker tape parade along Broadway in New York, New York, Nixon demanded one too.

Vice-President and Mrs. Nixon acknowledge the cheers of a crowd lining a street in Portland, Oregon, in September.
Nixon in Portland, Oregon
Senator Kennedy rides in an open car to a rally in Los Angeles, California, on November 1. The car to his right is plastered with Nixon stickers.
Kennedy in Los Angeles
Vice-Presidential candidate Henry Cabot Lodge (left) and Nixon (right) with President Dwight D. Eisenhower at a political rally in New York City, New York, on November 2.
Nixon in New York City
Senator Kennedy speaks at a rally just before the November 8 elections.

Kennedy on November 8

The Election

John F. Kennedy achieved victory by securing three New England states and other northern states with heavy electoral votes, along with seven southern states. Richard Nixon made the final tally close by sweeping most of the west, running strongly in the midwestern farm belt, and by securing three New England states, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. He lost most of the industrial states, however, and won only three southern states.

The grass skirt visible beneath the curtain on the left hints at this voting booth's location, Honolulu, Hawaii; it was the first chance for Hawaiians to vote in a U.S. presidential election.
voting in Hawaii
A Jacksonville, Florida, woman loads a washing machine while other citizens vote at booths installed at the laundromat.
voting in a laundromat

Because of the close margin in several states, Republican national chairman Thruston B. Martin raised the issue of whether there had been any election irregularities. Nixon disassociated himself from this movement, however, and issued a statement through aides that he would stand on the count which showed Kennedy the winner.

Richard Nixon, with his wife Pat at his side, addresses party workers at Los Angeles, California, early in the morning of November 9 as voting returns indicated that he would be defeated by Kennedy.
Richard Nixon concedes defeat

The Vote for President by State

  POPULAR VOTE ELECTORAL VOTE
State Republican Democrat Other Rep Dem
Alabama 237,981 318,303 7,958 0 5
Alaska 30,953 29,809 0 3 0
Arizona 221,241 176,681 469 4 0
Arkansas 184,508 213,049 28,952 0 8
California 3,259,722 3,224,099 23,261 32 0
Colorado 402,242 330,629 3,375 6 0
Connecticut 565,813 657,055 15 0 8
Delaware 96,373 99,590 720 0 3
Florida 795,476 748,700 4 10 0
Georgia 274,472 458,638 239 0 12
Hawaii 92,295 92,410 0 0 3
Idaho 161,597 138,853 1 4 0
Illinois 2,368,988 2,377,846 10,560 0 27
Indiana 1,175,120 952,358 7,882 13 0
Iowa 722,381 550,565 874 10 0
Kansas 561,474 363,213 4,138 8 0
Kentucky 602,607 521,855 0 10 0
Louisiana 230,980 407,339 169,572 0 10
Maine 240,608 181,159 0 5 0
Maryland 489,538 565,808 3 0 9
Massachusetts 976,750 1,487,174 5,556 0 16
Michigan 1,620,428 1,687,269 10,400 0 20
Minnesota 757,915 779,933 4,039 0 11
Mississippi* 73,561 108,362 116,248 0 0
Missouri 962,221 972,201 0 0 13
Montana 141,841 134,891 847 4 0
Nebraska 380,553 232,542 0 6 0
Nevada 52,387 54,880 0 0 3
New Hampshire 157,989 137,772 0 4 0
New Jersey 1,363,324 1,385,415 24,372 0 16
New Mexico 153,733 156,027 1,358 0 4
New York 3,446,419 3,830,085 14,575 0 45
North Carolina 655,648 713,318 0 0 14
North Dakota 154,310 123,963 158 4 0
Ohio 2,217,611 1,944,248 0 25 0
Oklahoma 533,039 370,111 0 7 0
Oregon 408,060 367,402 0 6 0
Pennsylvania 2,439,956 2,556,282 10,303 0 32
Rhode Island 147,502 258,032 0 0 4
South Carolina 188,558 198,192 0 0 8
South Dakota 179,017 128,070 0 4 0
Tennessee 556,577 481,453 13,762 11 0
Texas 1,121,699 1,167,932 22,039 0 24
Utah 205,361 169,248 372 4 0
Vermont 98,131 69,186 7 3 0
Virginia 404,521 362,327 4,601 12 0
Washington 629,273 599,298 13,001 9 0
West Virginia 395,995 441,786 0 0 8
Wisconsin 895,175 830,805 3,102 12 0
Wyoming 77,551 63,331 10 3 0
Total 34,108,474 34,221,531 502,773 219 303

*All 8 of Mississippi's electoral votes went to unpledged Democratic electors, all of whom voted for Harry F. Byrd.


Benjamin Harrison
Grover Cleveland
John F. Kennedy
Richard M. Nixon
Lyndon B. Johnson
Henry Cabot Lodge
President Dwight D. Eisenhower

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