Presidental Election Of 1960 Back to Main Student Connections News Summaries Daily News Quiz Letters to the Editor Crossword Puzzle Ask a Reporter Teacher Connections Daily Lesson Plan Lesson Plan Archive Education News NIE Teacher Resources Subscribe to the Times Parent Connections Discussion Topics Product Reviews Vacation Donation Plan Educational Products ————————————————– ———————- On this Day in History Resources on the Web NYC School Calendars Facts About the Times Specials Site Guide Feedback 1960: JOHN F. KENNEDY (D) vs. RICHARD M. NIXON (R) ————————————————– ———————- SUMMARY t the start of the 1960 campaign, John F. Kennedy was a long shot to win the Democratic nomination because of his Catholicism and his relatively undistinguished record as a senator.
Democrats remembered Al Smith’s disastrous run in 1928, and they worried that a Catholic candidate would have trouble gaining votes outside of heavily Catholic urban areas in the northeast and midwest. Religion was a controversial issue throughout the campaign, and Kennedy constantly struggled against anti-Catholicism. Critics insisted that a Catholic president would have to follow the pope’s orders, particularly on issues of public funding for parochial schools and contraception. Kennedy reassured voters that he would act according to the dictates of his conscience, not those of the Church. In a speech he gave to a group of Protestant ministers in Houston, Kennedy insisted that he was the Democratic candidate who happened to be Catholic, not the Catholic candidate. Kennedy used the primaries to gain the confidence of Democratic delegates.
His victory over Hubert Humphrey in Wisconsin and in heavily Protestant West Virginia helped answer concerns that he couldn’t win. JFK ultimately secured the nomination on the first ballot at the Democratic convention in Los Angeles and choose Lyndon Johnson as his running mate. Vice President Richard M. Nixon easily won the Republican nomination, and he and running mate Henry Cabot Lodge led in the polls on Labor Day. During the campaign, Nixon stressed his superior foreign policy knowledge and political experience. However, he was hurt by both an economic recession and the U-2 incident.
The turning point of the campaign came on September 26, when Kennedy and Nixon debated in front of 70 million television viewers. Television viewers thought Kennedy looked well rested and photogenic. Nixon, on the other hand, appeared tired on television, and many people thought his five-o’clock shadow made him appear sinister. Polls showed that radio listeners believed that Nixon had won the debate, while television viewers thought Kennedy had been superior. After three more debates, the electorate remained evenly divided.
On Election Day, the race turned into the closest since the 1888 contest. Of the almost 69 million votes cast, Kennedy won by a margin of slightly more than 100,000. While Kennedy held a wider margin in the electoral college, a shift of about 12,000 votes in five or six states would have given Nixon the victory. History.