1960 Republican Vice Presidential Choice

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Lincoln Republican:
Another interesting and important incident from "The Making of the President 1960" that White points out:

"October 19th......Martin Luther King was arrested with fiffty-two other Negroes in Rich's Department store in Atlanta for refusing to leave a table in its Magnolia Room restaurant.  On the following Monday, all other "sit-ins" arrested in this were released.  King alone was held in jail, and worse, sentenced on a technicality to four months hard labor and thereupon whisked away secretly to the State Penitentiary."

After considering advice, Kennedy "without consulting anyone, he placed a long-distance telephone call to Mrs. Martin Luther King, assured her of his interest and concern in her suffering and, if necessary, his intervention."

Word quickly spread to the press "that Kennedy had intervened to protect the imprisoned Negro leader."  Because of this intervention, King was released on Thursday.

The episode received scant attention from the population in general but in the black community the actions of Kennedy were received with overwhelming approval. 

The father of Martin Luther King Jr. had endorsed Nixon a few weeks earlier on religious grounds, but after Kennedy's compassionate actions, switched his support to Kennedy.  Kennedy's actions and King Sr.'s endorsement rang loud and clear across the country in the black community.

Says White "One cannot identify in the narrowness of American voting of 1960 any one particular episode or decision as being more important than any other in final tallies:  yet when one reflects that Illinois was carried by only 9,000 votes and that 250,000 Negroes are estiamted to have voted for Kennedy;  that Michigan was carried by 67,000 votes and that an estimated 250,000 Negroes voted for Kennedy;  that South Carolina was carried by 10,000 votes and that an estimated 40,000 Negroes there voted for Kennedy, the candidate's instinctive decision must be ranked among the most crucial of the last few weeks."

Possibly another small but crucial reason for Kennedy's win and for Nixon's loss in 1960.

Food for thought.

As everyone knows, Nixon did alright politically, being elected President in 1968 and re-elected in 1972 in one of the biggest landslides in history.

Nixon was probably one of the most prepared and most capable men to have ever been elected to the Presidency.

It was Nixon's own folly that brought him down, and kept him from becoming one of the great American Presidents.   


You make a convincing argument that a more pro-active handling of the Civil Rights issue by Nixon in 1960 would have won him the election.  Ted Whites' pointing out the number of African-American voters that could have tipped the results in certain key states,  the issue, however, cuts both ways.

The 1960 election was unique in that both candidates were positioning themselves to the center of the American political spectrum.  Kennedy had overwhelming advantages in party registration, an ability to appeal to the urban Northeast while holding on to the last vestiges of the "Solid South", and with an unsual situation of being able to campaign against the GOP  without denouncing the still-popular Eisenhower.  His perceived liability of inexperience  was put to bed in the first televised debate where he trounced Nixon.  The only issue standing between JFK and a substantial victory in 1960 was his Catholicism.

Nixon, even with the GOP's pro-civil rights position, was NOT going to preempt the Democrats on the issue.   A stronger Nixon rhetoric on civil rights MIGHT have won him a small percentage of black voters that would have voted for Kennedy, by the way, Jackie Robinson did campaign heavily for Nixon and the GOP in 1960, but subtract from that total the number of white voters that might have stayed with the Democrats in the border states and it would have MORE than balanced out.  A shift of a few percentage points in the Black vote  would have been wiped out by a small shift in the overwhelmingly larger white vote in key states such as Tennesee, Virginia, Kentucky or Florida.  In other words, a shift of 10% in the Black vote across the board would have been counterbalanced by a shift of less than 2% of the White vote in those key states.  Subtraction by addition, one might call it.

My call that a different Vice Presidential choice would have won the election for Nixon comes from a belief that Lodge added NOTHING to the GOP ticket.  Lodge's  attempt to appeal to Black voters by announcing that Nixon would appoint a Negro to the Cabinet HURT the ticket!  It was thought to cost the GOP white votes in key Southern and Border states without winning Nixon any liberal or Black votes that were conceded to the Democrats.  Almost ANY other choice would have added valuable Electoral votes to Nixon without subtracting any states from his total.

Lastly, Goldwater's claim that a more moderate position on Civil Rights would have won Nixon the election has some merit.  Nixon would have probably won a few key Southern and border states without losing any of his states to Kennedy, but it is a hard call to see him defending a more moderate position on Civil Rights in the debates and before the eyes of the liberal, Northeast-based media.  So, once again, it cuts both ways.

There are many "if's" behind the Election of 1960.  Ike's lack of support or his gaffe regarding Nixon's contributions.  Nixon's horrible performance in the first televised debate.  His decision to campaign in all 50 states, etc..  But the one glaring and forseeable mistake was his choice of a weak Vice Presidential candidiate.  Henry Cabot Lodge, who lost his Senate seat to Kennedy, who came from a  state and a region that he could NOT influence for his party, who was a terrible campaigner, making a major misstatement, versus JFK's choice of Johnson, who added tremendously to the Democrats with his singlehandedly bringing in Texas and holding on to the Old South for the win.

Lincoln Republican:
John, you make some good arguments on this interesting historical issue, no doubt.

Please do up a 1960 electoral map how you think the race would go with

John Kennedy/Lyndon Johnson
Richard Nixon/Thurston Morton

I'd love to do a map, Winfield.  Can you show me how?

Lincoln Republican:

Click reply for thread you want to reply to
Click EVCALC (electoral vote calculator)  This brings up the electoral maps
Click calculator for another year if you want another year.  If you don't click calculator for another year, you will be using the 2004 map
Pick your year, in this case 1960
Click retrieve
Make any changes you want by clicking beside each state name
Click show map link
Left click 3 times on the map link
Right click
Left click copy
Click red X in corner to get rid of link
Click back button to reply box
Right click in box
Left click paste 

There's your map 


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