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The 1960 presidential election was not determined by one event, tactic or blunder. John Kennedy’s choice of lyndon Johnson together Vice President, his convincing rebuttals to assaults on his religion, inexperience and also health, and Republican errors all had a considerable bearing on the outcome.

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However, Kennedy won above all since he was Nixon’s same in substance and also superior in style. As the first absolutely media-conscious and also heavily-marketed presidential candidate, Kennedy was able to impress upon the nation the idea that it had gotten in a new epoch and that he to be its appropriate leader.

Daddy’s money

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Kennedy’s path to strength was smoothed through his father’s money and influence. Together a precocious young politician he never had to court sponsors, and also was able to fully outspend his opponents in local elections.

On the nationwide stage this advantage was a less pronounced, but Joe Kennedy was still able come bankroll the campaign and also effect proceedings from the fringes.

The Catholic question

Criticism of Kennedy’s faith was a persistent mandrel in his side. Indeed, Robert Dallek attributes the fine margin of win in the latter to, ‘an unyielding are afraid of having a Catholic in the White House’.

Certainly the idea that a president can have a salient, ‘praemunire’ allegiance to the Vatican was anathema to numerous Americans. Kennedy’s counter-argument, which the deployed to certain effect in the West Virginia primary, to be watertight.

By affirming his loyalty to the first Amendment, outlining the truth that his religion had actually not influenced his wartime service and also introducing the idea that discrimination against one faith creates a attention paradigm, Kennedy demonstrated the frashill basis that the attacks.


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Smear tactics

Nixon’s was well-known for to run tough, awful campaigns, and also the Kennedy team suspect smear tactics. It acted by publishing a ‘Campaign Sourcebook’ – a condensed collection of counter-arguments that, in addition to the issues of experience and also religion, also addressed comes to over Kennedy’s health.

On the latter concern Kennedy had also procured the services of two influential physicians, that issued a statement declaring that that was completely capable the ‘meeting any type of obligation of the Presidency without the need for special medical treatment’. In ~ best, this obscured the truth.

Lyndon Johnson

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Kennedy’s selection of lyndon Johnson as Vice chairman anchored significant southern support at the risk of alienating northern liberals. Kennedy relocated to recoup disenchanted liberal assistance by courting leading liberals.

Eleanor Roosevelt, who had been Kennedy’s most vocal critic after the McCarthy affair, having actually met with Kennedy, was moved to remark that he ‘really is interested in help the civilization of his own country’ and also worthy of she support.

It is clear the Kennedy’s to plan substantially improved his electability, yet it is frequently the situation in elections that error quite than companies is the determining factor. In both the nomination and presidential races Kennedy benefited from blunders and tactical misjudgements of his opponents.

In the nomination race he was aided by Johnson’s and also Stevenson’s sleeping candidacies, for he to be able to use momentum gathered in the primaries come secure a first-ballot victory and kill your chances.


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In the presidential race it have to be detailed that from the outset Nixon was functioning from a place of relative weakness. As the establishment’s candidate he had to confront up come criticism over the slow economy, the communist revolution in Cuba and the U2 incident.

Nixon also hurt his campaign by pledging come visit every state in the Union. By visiting unswayable Republican or autonomous strongholds, he wasted precious time and energy.

Moreover, perhaps the most serious solitary mistake to be Eisenhower’s declaration once asked what Nixon had added as VP: ‘If you offer me a mainly I could think the one.’ This to be a throwaway comment the was intended come reflect Eisenhower’s fatigue, however it to be a gift come the autonomous cause.

The JFK mystique

However, if one is come talk about one solitary factor the won the election for Kennedy, climate one need to examine Kennedy’s uniquely captivating and also multi-faceted image.

He to be a male of literary stature, a Pulitzer prize winning author. He, favor the incumbent president, was a war hero. The was one of a glamorous family, a family members that worked with great diligence and evident success to advancement his career.

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On the family, the is no exaggeration come say that Kennedy symbolised the family much more than any kind of other presidential candidate in history. Not only was the the token of a really famous clan, but he additionally had a young, photogenic family members with Jackie Kennedy, a celebrity in her very own right.

The first televised dispute gave Kennedy’s image enormous exposure. Up to the 1st December doubts about his experience had actually threatened to damage his campaign, but the debate came to undermine Nixon’s superiority and also allay doubts around Kennedy’s character.

The statistics suggest its meaning – a Gallup poll native September put Nixon top by a point (47-46), but a post-debate poll observed Kennedy leading by 3 (49-46).

The conflict lacked substantive discussion, so the audience’s response was based primarily on cosmetics and also style. In this respect Kennedy was the clear winner – his crisp dark fit stood the end on the screen, and also his tanned complexion gave an impression of health and also vigour the opposite the grey-suited, perspiring angry President.

In summary


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Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Claimed that the central issue because that Kennedy’s 1960 campaign was ‘a brand-new epoch.’ He to be right.

Many Americans to be willing to think in a guy who might get the country moving again and also confront the an altering world, and also on a number of fronts Kennedy resonated through this will.

His youth – he was the first president born in the 20th century, and also the youngest approximately that point. In addition to his glamour and style, he produced an irresistible allure that supplemented his far-ranging political skill and resources.

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His 1960 choice victory introduced a new breed of national politics focused approximately image and presentation. This legacy suggests that Kennedy’s victory was attributable in far-reaching measure come his unique and also captivating style.