End of the Beginning
(TIME; March 21, 1960) -- On election eve in New Hampshire, the big white clock in the cupola of Dover's city hall glowed down on the wintry town, and the resinous vapors of a torchlight parade gave a tang to the crisp might air. The kilted Granite State Highlanders tootled The Blue Bells of Scotland on their bagpipes and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the Democratic U.S. Senator from neighboring Massachusetts, marched behind them through the streets of Dover. In the city hall, 1,000 people waited to see Candidate Kennedy and to hear his last word in the first primary campaign of 1960. "Beginning tomorrow," said he, "New Hampshire can fire a shot that will be heard around the country."
Yankee New Hampshire (pop. 592,000) seemed hardly that important. Its voice in the national electoral college (four votes out of 537) is small; its registered voters (325,710) barely exceed those of the city of Milwaukee, are only half the number of employees of General Motors and their families. Yet individualistic New Hampshire is traditionally 1) the first of the 50 states to indicate a presidential choice, and 2) a political Ouija board that fascinates politicians and sometimes foretells political events to come. New Hampshire's early primary elections mark the end of the beginning of any presidential election, the tingling time when the candidates actually begin to pile up their convention votes.
A Family Affair. No one had doubts last week about the outcome of New Hampshire's primaries: only two major candidates were in the race -- Vice President Nixon, Republican; Jack Kennedy, Democrat.
After the dramatic withdrawal of Nelson Rockefeller as a G.O.P. presidential candidate, Nixon had scrapped his plans for an active invasion of New Hampshire, relied on an intensive telephone campaign and the well-knit efforts of the state's dominant Republican organization to put him across. Kennedy, on the other hand, had waged an all-out campaign, powered by his family, his own indefatigable youthfulness, and the strength and cunning of the Kennedy organization, which, months before, had virtually taken over the fledgling New Hampshire Democratic machine.
Both candidates won smashing victories and both made political history. Nixon, with 65,204 votes, polled an alltime high in New Hampshire -- significantly ahead of Dwight Eisenhower's previous highwater mark of 56,464 in the 1956 primary. Kennedy racked up 43,372 Democratic ballots, more than twice the previous record set by Democratic Winner Estes Kefauver in 1956. Neither candidate had hoped for anything approaching the final tabulations.
Other straws in the New Hampshire wind:
--Kennedy's vote reduced the traditional Republican lead in New Hampshire from 2-to-1 to 3-to-2.
--The heavy write-in vote which had been predicted for Rockefeller failed to materialize, and the New York Governor got only 2,745 handwritten ballots, leading Nixon's supporters to conclude that Rocky is no longer a threat in 1960.
--An election-eve denunciation of Kennedy as "soft on communism" by rabidly right-wing Governor Wesley Powell was denounced by Kennedy and sharply repudiated by Nixon. Its possible effects on the election were hard to discern. Some analysts claimed that the unprecedented turnout at the polls was a result; others saw the 2,196 Republican write-in votes for Kennedy as a protest against Powell. Nixon aides interpreted the Vice President's quick repudiation of Powell's reckless charge as a big help in dissociating their candidate from the right wing of the Republican Party. But when the results were in, Nixon still congratulated Powell, his New Hampshire campaign manager, for a "great achievement."
--Kennedy's greatest pile-up of votes occurred, predictably, in the industrialized, Democratic and Catholic cities. Jacqueline Kennedy's French blood may have been a factor in the heavy vote for her husband by New Hampshire's 98,000 French Canadian citizens.
--Nixon won handily in the small towns, but Democratic strength was increased in many towns and counties. Politicians' conclusion: Kennedy's Catholicism did not hurt him in Protestant towns, helped him in Catholic cities.
--In the two barometer counties of Coos and Strafford (which have rarely failed to forecast the November outcomes in their March primaries,) the Democrats won -- 5,059 to 4,893 in Strafford, 5,060 to 4,338 in Coos.
In Washington, the supporters of Democratic Candidates Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson and Stuart Symington assumed a public so-what attitude, but showed private signs of alarm at the strength of Jack Kennedy's increasing thrust. The crucial primary for Kennedy will still be three weeks hence in Wisconsin, where he is running hard against Minnesota's Hubert Humphrey for the Democratic honors, and where Republicans can freely cross over to vote either ticket. But at the end of the beginning it looked more and more a campaign between Dick Nixon and Jack Kennedy.
"What has New Hampshire got to do with the price of eggs?" snapped a Humphrey henchman after Jack Kennedy's impressive primary victory last week. Said a Stuart Symington lieutenant: "Have any of the oldtimers given up? The professionals have been through this before."
Such talk was more and more frequent last week around the Washington campfires of Jack Kennedy's rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination. The names of notable unbeatables who had been beaten -- Taft, Kefauver, Stassen -- were lovingly recalled. There was a lot of big talk about stopping Kennedy in Wisconsin April 5, or if not there in West Virginia May 10. But the plain fact was that Kennedy's rivals were scared. Nobody was panicking yet, but every Democrat was operating on a yellow alert.
Late Recognition. After weeks of muted weekend campaigning, Hubert Humphrey started moving fast in Wisconsin, even crossed paths briefly with Rival Kennedy at the Intonville Airport. Shaking hands at a Kenosha factory gate, Humphrey was delighted to discover that more and more people were recognizing him. In the midst of his rising enthusiasm, the buoyant Humphrey still had pensive moments. After an overtime session of handshaking with deaf children at a school in Delavan, he was asked why he spent so much time with nonvoters. Replied Humphrey: "I guess it's because Jack's got a feeling he can win. Me. I'm not so sure, so I'm going to have some fun."
Missouri's handsome Stu Symington wound up two weeks of galoshing around snowbound southern Illinois at a rally in the gymnasium of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Herrin (pop. 9,331). More than 400 party zealots, including virtually every Democratic candidate for local office or for the national convention from 19 southern Illinois counties, gave Symington a heartening welcome. It was, Symington said, "the best political meeting for me since 1948." But for a man campaigning in the friendly sector of a neighboring state, it was not good enough. Indeed, few Illinoisans seemed aware that an incipient president was in their midst.
Early Declaration. In Washington, Symington held several meetings last week with his top strategists -- Lawyer (and onetime White House aide) Clark Clifford, Representative Charlie Brown and Administrative Assistant Stan Fike -- to mull over the situation. There were predictions that Symington would make his formal declaration of candidacy earlier than planned -- around April 1. But some of Symington's own high command felt that it was a lot later than he thought. Said a St. Louis advocate: "Symington has waited a year and a half too long to put together the kind of organization Kennedy has. What Kennedy has to do after Wisconsin is to catch one of several states. If he can get a big one, this boy has got it. If he can move one of the big boys, we can forget all about the convention in Los Angeles."
PRIMARIES Something for Everybody
April 18, 1960
On election night the candidates were dead tired, hollow- eyed and worried. As the first returns began to trickle into Milwaukee from Wisconsin's countryside. Candidate Hubert Humphrey began to brighten up. The magic numbers were going all his way. By 9 p.m. Humphrey held a 6,500-vote lead over his rival Jack Kennedy. In his Pfister Hotel suite, Kennedy slumped in a chair watching television; Brother Bob hovered anxiously over a telephone, jotting down the reports of local legman. Then, slowly, the numbers began to change, and by 11 p.m. Kennedy was out in front. At that point, only one thing was certain: placid Wisconsin had been so churned by the campaign that an unprecedented 1,192,398 citizens had gone to the polls in a primary where voters can freely cross party lines. And that, too, added to the uncertainty.
Two Themes. In the final dervish week it was Humphrey who covered the most territory and made the most political mileage. Traveling in a rented bus, he drove furiously across rolling dairyland and rustic wheat country, punching endlessly at two themes: Agriculture Secretary Ezra Benson's hated farm program, and Jack Kennedy's early support of that program. Local lieutenants of Missouri's Stuart Symington -- whose strategy calls for staying out of primaries -- publicly threw their support to Humphrey. Mildly anti-Catholic ads were distributed to 350 Wisconsin weeklies (planted by the unofficial Square Deal for Humphrey Committee and promptly disowned by Humphrey). Nearing the end, Humphrey even lost his voice but rigorous throat sprays served the day. Kennedy continued his cool campaigning, but the mid-campaign clean-sweep predictions were revised, bets were hedged, and apprehension crept into the Kennedy camp in proportion to the rising confidence that seized Humphrey.
When the final returns were in, Kennedy won, with a decisive 478,901 votes -- 56% of the Democratic vote that took six of the state's ten election districts, 20 1/2 of the 31 delegate votes at the national convention. Humphrey was second with 372,034 votes, four election districts, 10 1/2 delegate votes. Nixon, unopposed Republican, came in third in the popular count, with 341,463. The pundits and politicians added up the returns and made them come out just about any way they wished. But there were some unmistakable conclusions to be drawn.
One Exception. With his 106,000 plurality, Kennedy showed some remarkable strengths and some revealing weaknesses. His support from Wisconsin's large Roman Catholic population (32%) almost amounted to a bloc vote -- from the German and Polish Catholics in Milwaukee's Fourth District to the thousands of rural Republicans who crossed over to vote for him. (One interesting exception to the rule: in economically hard-pressed Ashland and Iron counties, both over 40% Catholic, Hubert Humphrey won.) Though Humphrey was endorsed by U.A.W.-C.I.O leaders, Kennedy swept the labor vote, which is heavily Catholic. One pro-Humphrey U.A.W. official groused that it was impossible to get Humphrey literature distributed in plants with Catholic shop stewards. But Kennedy worked hard for the labor vote, shaking hands at factory gates, attending shop meetings, cultivating labor's rank and file; he was doubtless helped too by Teamster Boss Jimmy Hoffa's foray into Wisconsin to carry on his vicious vendetta against the Kennedys. Kennedy ran well enough in the farm districts to prove that he has some farmer appeal but lost by enough to prove that he is vulnerable to Humphrey's pounding at his agriculture voting record.
Humphrey was beaten in the state adjoining his own Minnesota, by an urbane Easterner with a Harvard accent. But he was still a very lively candidate. His hard work among the farmers had paid off handsomely: only one farm district, the seventh, fell into the Kennedy column, but it was 64% Catholic Portage County, in the center of the district, that gave Kennedy his 6,000 plurality in the seventh. There are a few signs that Humphrey benefitted from crossover support of Protestant Republicans (in Richland County, a Republican farm area, Humphrey polled 2,418 votes, Nixon 2,158, Kennedy 1,558), but mostly he exploited the farmers' strong anti-Benson feeling by trumpeting Kennedy's early farm votes for Benson programs. Supporters of Adlai Stevenson in Madison shifted to Humphrey and helped carry Dane County for him. Humphrey's labor strength was a bust, but he was cheered by results from Milwaukee's three Negro wards, where he won by a 2-to-1 margin. "If you're talking about blocs," crowed Humphrey, "the Negro's a much bigger bloc nationally than labor."
Nixon, whose supporters had hoped for 40% of the total vote and predicted 30%, got 29%. His big riddle: Were the thousands of embattled farmers and enthusiastic Catholics who crossed over to vote for Humphrey or Kennedy just "one-day Democrats" who wanted to put their bets on a real contest, and would they return to the G.O.P. in November? Nixon, recalling 1948, felt confident. (In 1948 thousands of Wisconsin Democrats crossed over to cast their votes in a three-way contest by Harold E. Stassen, General Douglas MacArthur and Thomas E. Dewey in the Republican primary, leaving Harry Truman trailing far behind in fourth place. But in November the Democrats crossed back again and Truman beat Dewey by 50,000 votes to carry Wisconsin.)
Actually, unpredictable Wisconsin had done it again. Nothing was big enough -- Kennedy's margin of victory, Humphrey's margin of loss. Nixon's share of the total vote, and as far as the two Democrats were concerned, the whole performance had to be repeated in West Virginia. Groaned a Kennedy supporter: "When I think of all those mornings we got up to be at those plant gates -- and now they say West Virginia will be the test." Said Hubert Humphrey, to a war council of aides, when the last returns were in: "We'll be out from under this Catholic thing, and we'll be dealing with real Democrats, not these one-day Democrats. (West Virginia forbids crossover voting.) We've got four weeks to saturate that state. We've got to get a lot of literature in, get public relations help, all the things we didn't do here. Symington and Johnson will still be on the sidelines; they're not going anywhere until that primary is resolved. I know we can win there."
DEMOCRATS Forward Look
May 23, 1960
The first salmon streaks of dawn were coming up over Washington's National Airport when the darkened Convair winged in from West Virginia. Jackie Kennedy lay curled in sleep on a back seat, but her husband, the hero of the night before, was wide awake. As soon as the plane door opened, he hurried over to a vending machine, plunked in a dime and plucked out an early edition of the Washington Post. KENNEDY SWEEPS WEST VA. VOTE, proclaimed the headline. Chuckled Jack Kennedy: "I wouldn't be surprised if Lyndon and Stu might be having a conference today."
It was a logical guess. Kennedy's big victory had produced a sinking feeling in the camps of his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination. Minnesota's Hubert Humphrey withdrew from the race and hurried home to campaign for the Senate. Texas' Lyndon Johnson and Missouri's Stuart Symington, the candidates who had sidestepped the primaries, now had every reason to form a grand alliance. Each made the usual brave comments. Said Symington: "The primary will not be any more decisive than Wisconsin." Said Johnson: "The nation can start judging on the basis of merit." But nobody was fooled; the political hour was growing late for Johnson and Symington -- and later still for Adlai Stevenson, whose friends indicated that if someone would just promise to make him Secretary of State, he'd be happy.
Liberal List. Washington waited in vain for the stop-Kennedy summit meeting. It never came. Neither Symington nor Johnson was willing at this time to bow out in favor of the other; Stevenson was urged to endorse Kennedy, but decided to wait out the results of this week's Oregon primary where all hopefuls -- including Oregon's own Wayne Morse -- are entered. In the lull, United Auto Workers' Walter Reuther, political shop steward of Michigan's Governor G. Mennen Williams, came out for Kennedy. So did Humphreyman Joseph Rauh, vice chairman of Americans for Democratic Action. (But not all liberals share the enthusiasm for Kennedy. Said the liberal Nation last week: "The Republican passion for Senator Kennedy is obviously based on the theory that however formidable he may be as a pre-convention candidate, he would be a weak nominee for the Democrats." In somewhat the same vein, Republicans have grinned over the fact that Kennedy has nominated New York's Nelson Rockefeller as his "strongest" possible opponent.) And even Eleanor Roosevelt, who has had her reservations about Jack Kennedy's Catholicism, issued the matriarchal opinion that he, more than either Symington or Johnson, "will be considered the candidate of the liberals."
The Ichabod specter of Estes Kefauver clomped through the stop-Kennedy speculation and talk. In 1952, with a successful string of 13 primaries behind him, the Keef was stopped cold in mid-convention by President Harry Truman and the Democratic bosses simply because he did not fit their image of a nominee. No such feelings exist about Kennedy, and his one big bugaboo -- his Catholic religion -- was gone with West Virginia.
Southern Secession. With nobody willing to step aside and nobody really determined to stop Kennedy, the situation of the rivals began to disintegrate. Truman endorsed Symington, as everyone expected him to, but even that had a slight boomerang quality about it. Questioned in Chicago by reporters, Truman said limply that the only thing he had against Kennedy was the fact that "he lives in Massachusetts." In the South there were signs of an incipient secession from Lyndon Johnson. A wobbly move to nominate Herman Talmadge as a strategic favorite son began in Georgia. Commented the Atlanta Constitution: "This will further increase the probability that Senator Kennedy will be nominated on the first ballot." In Arkansas, Governor Orval Faubus noted that Kennedy seems to have "started a trend."
A grim group of Washington strategists tossed out the possibility that a crisis growing out of the Paris summit conference might change the whole picture. Such a time of national peril, they suggested, could make the Democratic Convention reject Kennedy as too young and too inexperienced to cope with Nikita Khrushchev. A better crisis candidate, the whisper went, might be Johnson, the cool, bipartisan helmsman, or Symington, the military expert, or Stevenson, the internationalist. It all had the sound, though, of whistling in the growing dark.
Vote Getter's Victory. Jack Kennedy had figured the West Virginia odds at 60-40 -- against himself. His odds were right; he had just predicted the wrong winner. When the final returns were in, he had swept West Virginia by 220,000 votes to Hubert Humphrey's 142,000.
It was a triumph that confounded the experts. Kennedy had carried all but seven of West Virginia's 55 counties. Despite the pressure of venerable United Mine Worker John L. Lewis for Humphrey, the miners in the depressed coal fields turned out for Kennedy. Despite the warnings of their militantly Protestant pastors, the hillbillies south of the Kanawha River voted for a Catholic; Kennedy, in fact, brought his campaign to a climax with a statewide Sunday evening television assurance that if any President of the U.S. took "dictation" from anyone, the Pope included, it would be contrary to his oath of office and "he would be subject to impeachment and should be." Negroes gave him their emphatic endorsement. Women found him irresistible. And for all the rancor and bitterness it generated, the West Virginia primary cleared the political air. It swept the religious issue aside, at least until after the Democratic Convention, and it removed any doubt about Kennedy's ability as a vote getter.
Razzle-Dazzle. Reporters, pollsters and politicos who had predicted a narrow Humphrey victory (although most had hedged their bets in the last days by noting a Kennedy campaign surge) cast about for explanations. There were several in sight. The smooth, battle- proven Kennedy organization had never worked more efficiently. Most West Virginians thought that the Kennedy moneybags had been used not to buy the election ("We're running for President, not for sheriff," snorted a Kennedy aide) but to finance a razzle-dazzle, all-out fight. In the last 72 hours Kennedy poured out $40,000 for radio and television time. Then there were such shrewdly employed pitchmen as Franklin Roosevelt Jr., who exploited New Deal nostalgia to good effect.
Negative factors worked for Jack Kennedy, too. Humphrey drew good crowds and held them like an evangelist, but he just could not get across the idea that he was a serious presidential candidate. His silent partnership with Candidates Stuart Symington and Lyndon Johnson did him no good, and the pro- Humphrey campaign of West Virginia's Senator Robert Byrd, an avowed Johnson man, boomeranged savagely. Kennedy even carried Byrd's home town, Sophia, 237-135. As a former Ku Klux Klansman, Byrd probably accounted for a large part of Kennedy's big Negro vote.
On the Line. The biggest factor was Jack Kennedy himself. His easy manner, serious speeches and kinetic charm, his decision to fight out the religion issue, and even his Harvard accent -- all won respect and votes.
Two days afterward, in New York for a big, $100-a-plate Democratic dinner, Kennedy was greeted with a sea of FKBW ("For Kennedy Before Wisconsin") buttons, and the glum assurances of Tammany---?--- Carmine De Sapio that he already had the support of "more than a majority" of New York's 114-vote delegation. New Jersey (41 votes) was 80% committed. In Maryland, Kennedy interrupted a whirlwind primary campaign to make a mysterious long-distance phone call from a roadside booth to Michigan's Governor G. Mennen ("Soapy") Williams. With Walter Reuther prodding him to commit Michigan's 51-vote delegation to Kennedy, Soapy issued a statement that he had "no present intention to make a personal endorsement."
Across the nation, in every state except his rivals' home grounds, Kennedy's bandwagon was making tracks, and the tune it played had changed from the campaign theme, High Hopes, to everything's Coming Up Roses.
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