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Kennedy v. Nixon

The Presidential Election of 1960

Edmund F. Kallina Jr.

Publication Year: 2010

Kennedy v. Nixon is a book for everyone who thinks they know what happened in the pivotal election year of 1960. For fifty years we've accepted Theodore White's premise (from The Making of the President, 1960) that Kennedy ran a brilliant campaign while Nixon committed blunder after blunder.

But White the journalist was a Kennedy partisan and helped establish the myth of Camelot. Now, five decades later, Edmund Kallina offers a fresh overview of the election's most critical and controversial events.

Based upon research conducted at four presidential libraries--those of Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon--Kallina is able to make observations and share insights unavailable in the immediate aftermath of one of the closest races in American presidential history. He describes the strengths and mistakes of both camps, and examines the impact of civil rights, Cold War tensions, and the televised presidential debates on an election that still looms large in both the political history and the popular imagination of the United States.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

The staffs at the John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon Libraries provided invaluable assistance. These libraries are national treasures. Similarly, I am most grateful to the National Archives site at Laguna Niguel, California, and most especially Paul Wormser ...

Cast of Characters

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pp. xi-xiv

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pp. 1-3

Almost fifty years ago, Theodore H. White wrote perhaps the most famous book in the history of American political journalism, The Making of the President 1960. It won a Pulitzer Prize and made the author a wealthy celebrity. A half century later, its chronicle of the election continues to be the accepted version of the event. ...

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1. National Party Politics in the 1950s

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pp. 4-24

Inevitably, the roots of the national party politics of one decade reside in the preceding ones. The 1950s are no exception. An understanding of American politics in the 1950s, therefore, begins with the story of the 1930s and 1940s and the impact of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the New Deal, ...

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2. Kennedy and Nixon before 1960

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pp. 25-48

The two men who contested the election of 1960 came from opposite ends of the country and from different socioeconomic classes, but they were close in age and shared some common values. Both men possessed personalities that stirred the interest of political observers, an interest that continues unabated today. ...

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3. John F. Kennedy and the Democratic Nomination

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pp. 49-80

After the 1958 congressional sweep and with Eisenhower constitutionally prohibited from running, Democratic spirits soared. Under these circumstances, there was no shortage of available candidates to make the run at the head of the Democratic ticket. By the end of 1959, five leading presidential contenders were identifiable ...

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4. Richard M. Nixon and the Republican Nomination

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pp. 81-96

For the Republican Party, 1957 and 1958 were not good years. In November 1958, the GOP suffered its worst defeat since 1936 and came out of the midterm elections badly wounded. In 1959, the party began to rebound. As it entered the presidential election year in 1960, it did so with a popular incumbent president, ...

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5. The General Election Campaign, July 28–September 25

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pp. 97-116

As he stood before the Republican National Convention on July 28, 1960, Richard M. Nixon noted that he had been asked when his presidential campaign would begin. That night, Nixon proclaimed: “This campaign begins tonight, here and now, and it goes on. And this campaign will continue from now until November eighth without any letup.”1 ...

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6. The General Election Campaign, September 26–October 21

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pp. 117-134

In 1960, most intellectuals favored John F. Kennedy. The intellectual, though, who might have been the most influential in getting JFK elected was Charles Van Doren, a lowly Columbia University instructor of English. He assisted Kennedy by unleashing the great television quiz show scandal of the late 1950s. ...

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7. Civil Rights and the General Election Campaign

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pp. 135-157

As the presidential debates ended in rancor over Cuba, another event that attracted relatively little attention at the time influenced the presidential race and symbolized a rising issue that would loom large in American politics in the 1960s. The event was the jailing of Martin Luther King Jr. ...

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8. The Final Days of the General Election Campaign, October 22–November 7

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pp. 158-176

When Robert F. Kennedy scorched Sargent Shriver for instigating his brother’s telephone call to Coretta Scott King, he was motivated by a belief that the call was dangerous because the presidential contest was so tight. But most observers believed that John F. Kennedy was in a position to win decisively, ...

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9. November 8, 1960, and Its Aftermath

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pp. 177-200

On November 8, 1960, Americans went to the polls as they had not done in more than fifty years and would not do again. Voter turnout (that is, the percentage of eligible voters casting their ballots) was greater than for any of the great Roosevelt elections of 1932, 1936, and 1940, and the highest since 1908. ...

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10. The Myths of 1960

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pp. 201-214

While the election was over, the controversy concerning it was just beginning. Historians, political scientists, politicians, and interested citizens began trying to make sense of what had happened. Inevitably, these interpretations were more about satisfying the practical and psychological needs of the interpreter ...


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pp. 215-216


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pp. 217-260


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pp. 261-278


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pp. 279-289

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About the Author

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pp. 290

Edmund F. Kallina Jr. is professor of history at the University of Central Florida. He is the author of Claude Kirk and the Politics of Confrontation (UPF, 1993) and Courthouse over White House: Chicago and the Presidential Election of 1960 (UPF, 1988).

E-ISBN-13: 9780813036540
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813041537
Print-ISBN-10: 0813041538

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2010