En 1960 nos encontramos en el escenario típico de un "final de reinado". Ocho años de Presidencia llegan a su fin, con un Presidente popular pero ya enfermo y desgastado, que ha pasado sus últimos años de gobierno entre el hospital y el Despacho Oval. El crepúsculo de la Administración Eisenhower es también interpretado como la retirada pública de la generación nacida a finales del Siglo XIX. La puesta en escena de una nueva hornada de jóvenes políticos que aspiran a tomar las riendas del país a las puertas de una década que augura cambios.
Existe entre el dominante Partido Demócrata la conciencia de que los ocho años de gobierno republicano han sido producto del liderazgo personal del General Eisenhower, y no un síntoma del avance republicano en la política nacional. Están convencidos de que pueden recuperar la Casa Blanca. El proceso de nominación nada tendrá que ver con el actual sistema. Las primarias abiertas sólo tendrán lugar en un puñado de estados no demasiado grandes.
En 1960 aún los comités estatales del partido y los barones territoriales siguen teniendo la capacidad de designar a gran parte de los delegados. Las primarias se utilizarán para ganar apoyos y tener una referencia sobre cual candidato cuenta con más apoyo popular y un mayor talento para hacer campaña. Aquellos que necesiten demostrar su viabilidad como candidatos y convencer al partido, participarán en todas las primarias. Otros, los pesos pesados bien relacionados con el aparato, optarán por esperar a la Convención para convencer a los delegados.
En total serán hasta 10 los demócratas que opten a la nominación: el Gobernador Pat Brown, de California; el Gobernador Michael DiSalle, de Ohio; el Senador Hubert Humphrey, de Minnesota; el Senador Lyndon Johnson, de Texas; el Senador John F. Kennedy, de Massachusetts; el Gobernador Robert Meyner, de New Jersey; el Senador Wayne Morse, de Oregon; el Senador George Smathers, de Florida; el ex Gobernador Adlai Stevenson, de Illinois; y el Senador Stuart Symington, de Missouri.
Fuentes: Wikipedia, Boston Globe y The Making of the President
(...) On January 2, 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy (D - Massachusetts) declared his intent to run for President of the United States. In the Democratic primary election, he faced challenges from Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota and Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon. Kennedy defeated Humphrey in Wisconsin and West Virginia and Morse in Maryland and Oregon, although Morse's candidacy is often forgotten by historians. Kennedy also defeated token opposition (often write in candidates) in New Hampshire, Indiana, and Nebraska.
Despite fourteen years in Congress, Senator Kennedy had not established much of a power base in Washington, and was known more as a witty playboy than a political heavyweight. His religion also presented a major stumbling block, since no Roman Catholic had ever been elected to the nation's highest office.
Historian James Hilty writes that the Kennedy campaign "began earlier, spent more, and was better organized than any previous Democratic campaign." Their strategy was to win primaries to demonstrate John Kennedy's electability to the party bosses. There were only sixteen primaries in 1960, and most of them were in smaller states with relatively few delegates at stake. So they handpicked states where they thought they could win impressively, while working behind the scenes building support elsewhere.
Their first test came in Wisconsin, where Kennedy edged out Hubert Humphrey, the well-liked senator from neighboring Minnesota who had once been considered the front-runner. Attention next turned to overwhelmingly rural and Protestant West Virginia, where Kennedy needed to defuse the Catholicism issue in order to prove that he was electable.
In West Virginia, Kennedy made a visit to a coal mine, and talked to the mine workers to win their support; most people in that conservative, mostly Protestant state were deeply suspicious about Kennedy being a Catholic. In order to secure his party's nomination, Kennedy had to win West Virginia's delegates. Losing would effectively take the decision off the convention floor and throw it into the hands of the Democratic Party's powerful urban bosses, a development JFK was anxious to avoid because they would favor more seasoned party elders.
En la imagen: el Senador Hubert Humphrey
Four weeks before West Virginia primary day, the tide had turned against JFK and he found himself trailing Humphrey by 20 points. Kennedy responded by moving his key campaign aides to West Virginia, calling on close friends to volunteer their time, and training county campaign chairs in 39 of the state's 59 counties to staff phone banks, host receptions, and go door to door to distribute literature. In framing the catholicism issue as one of tolerance versus intolerance, Kennedy appealed to West Virginia's long-held revulsion for prejudice; placed Humphrey, who had championed tolerance his entire career, on the defensive; and attacked him with a vengeance.
Humphrey, who was short on funds, could not match the well-financed Kennedy operation. Kennedy defeated his rival soundly, winning 60.8 percent of the vote. That evening, Humphrey announced that he was no longer a candidate for the presidency. Kennedy knew the nomination was his if he could hold his delegates together once they reached the convention.
Kennedy emerged as a universally acceptable candidate for the party after his victory in the West Virginia primary. With Humphrey and Morse out of the race, Kennedy's main opponent at the convention in Los Angeles was Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson of Texas. Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic nominee in 1952 and 1956, was not officially running but had broad grassroots support inside and outside the convention hall. Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri was also a candidate, as were several favorite sons.
En la imagen: Bobby Kennedy, jefe de campaña de su hermano, en la Convención Demócrata de 1960, en Los Angeles.
Senator John F. Kennedy came to Los Angeles convention with 600 of the 761 delegates needed to secure the nomination. His political team (his brother Bobby, Kenneth O'Donnell, Pierre Salinger and Lawrence O'Brien) set up camp in Room 8315 of the Biltmore Hotel. The group worked to provide the remainder of support for the Massachusetts Senator, using timeworn convention tactics and old-line pressure. Bobby Kennedy, brother's campaign manager, was everywhere at the convention, commanding the Kennedy forces in an all-out attempt to swing undecided delegates their way.
Senator Lyndon Johnson had planned to sit out the primaries and present himself as a powerful compromise candidate at the convention. Since Johnson had supported oil depletion allowances (for tax purposes) throughout his career in the House and the Senate, important figures in the oil industry and the representatives of the oil states, headed by Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn (D - Texas), supported the candidacy of Lyndon Johnson. Rayburn was especially keen for Johnson to defeat Kennedy. These men knew that the Johnson candidacy could not be muscled by seeking individual Convention delegates. Their plans rested squarely on their control of Congress, on the enormous accumulation of political debts and uncashed obligations that, between them, Johnson and Rayburn had earned over years of the legislative trade.
Senator Lyndon Johnson portrayed the front-runner as being “too young and “too inexperienced”. Despite this dirty tricks campaign, Johnson was unable to stop Kennedy being nominated. The strategy backfired; Kennedy managed to win just enough delegates for a first-ballot nomination, despite last minute "Stop Kennedy" movements led by Johnson and others.
The presidential tally:
*John F. Kennedy 806
*Lyndon Johnson 409
*Stuart Symington 86
*Adlai Stevenson 79.5
*Robert Meyner 43
*Hubert Humphrey 41
*George Smathers 30
*Ross Barnett 23
*four others 3
That left Kennedy's choice of a running mate as the last major decision of the convention. At around 11 a.m. on the day a nominee was to be presented, John Kennedy visited Johnson in his hotel suite and offered him the vice presidency, despite opposition from many liberal delegates and Kennedy's own staff, including Robert Kennedy.
The selection of Lyndon Johnson as vice president was highly controversial. JFK actually wanted Senator Henry Jackson (D - Washington) as his running mate, and had offered the position to Johnson as a mere courtesy. After the Senate Majority Leader accepted, Robert Kennedy went to Johnson's suite to say that "JFK" had changed his mind. Johnson called the elder Kennedy to confirm this, and when it was not, the notorious "Lyndon Johnson/Robert Kennedy feud" was born.
En la imagen: un tenso Lyndon Johnson sigue el desarrollo de la Convención desde la habitación del hotel.
Kennedy’s close political advisers were shocked when Johnson accepted the post. They, like Kennedy himself, expected him to reject the offer. Why would Johnson give up his position as the second most powerful position in the country (Senate Majority Leader)? Kenneth O’Donnell was highly suspicious of Johnson’s motives. When he mentioned this to Kennedy he replied: “I’m forty-three years old, and I’m the healthiest candidate for President in the United States. You’ve traveled with me enough to know that. I’m not going to die in office. So the Vice-Presidency doesn’t mean anything. I’m thinking of something else, the leadership in the Senate. If we win, it will be by a small margin and I won’t be able to live with Lyndon Johnson as the leader of a small majority in the Senate.”
Politically, however, it proved an astute choice. Lyndon Johnson was an enthusiastic campaigner who gave the ticket credibilty in the South to win what was considered likely to be the closest election since 1916. But the success of their political collaboration would never erase the enmity between the vice president and the president's brother. (...)