Kennedy Won The 1960 Election Honestly

In THE DARK SIDE OF CAMELOT, Pulitzer Prize winning author Seymour Hersh implies that corrupt and unethical practices provided the winning margin in 1960. Hersh was not the first person to imply that the 1960 election was stolen, especially in Illinois, where it is alleged that Mayor Richard J. Daley's machine stole the margin of votes needed for victory.

In fact, Kennedy was elected President in 1960 because he was a Democrat, and the corrupt campaign practices nearly cost him the election.

Kennedy Should Have Clobbered Nixon

In 1960, no Vice-President had been elected President without first succeeding the President, since Martin Van Buren in 1836, a 124 years before. Vice-President Humphrey lost in 1968. Richard Nixon, a former Vice-President, went on to become the first President to resign from office. Vice-President Gerald Ford lost in 1976, even after becoming President, and former Vice-President Mondale lost in 1984. Even George Bush, the first sitting Vice-President to be elected President in 152 years, served only one term and was defeated for re-election.

John Nance Garner, a former Speaker of the House and Franklin Roosevelt's Vice-President for his first two terms, once said that the Vice-Presidency isn't worth a pitcher of warm piss. Historically, the Vice-Presidency is a dead end job. And even Vice-Presidents who become President upon the death of the President are not our greatest Presidents. (See Our Greatest Presidents.) So, Kennedy should have slaughtered Nixon. The fact that he came so close to losing is the real story in 1960.

Kennedy Even Won Illinois Honestly

It is almost received political wisdom that Mayor Richard J. Daley (his son is the current Mayor and his other son is Clinton's Secretary of Commerce) delivered enough extra votes in Cook County to provide the winning margin in Illinois.

True, Kennedy carried Illinois by only 0.19%. But that's still triple the margin by which he carried Hawaii (0.06%) and more than 10% higher than the margin by which he won the election nationwide (0.17%).

In Illinois, Kennedy squeaked to victory while Otto Kerner, the Democratic candidate for Governor, and Paul Douglas, the Democratic candidate for Senate were winning by huge margins. The House Delegation was also Democratic by 14 to 11. So, 1960 was a Democratic year in Illinois.

In Cook County, Kennedy got 1,378,343 to Nixon's 1,059,607. Kerner got 1,455,674 to his Republican opponent's 937,625; and Douglas received 1,407,775 to his opponent's 970,050 votes. So, in Cook County, Nixon was running as much as 100,000 votes ahead of other Republicans, while Kennedy was trailing the other Democrats by 30,000 to 50,000. How could votes be stolen for Kennedy which result in his running behind the other Democrats while Nixon was running far ahead of other Republicans?

Voter turnouts in elections always exceed the total vote for any one office. In presidential elections, the turnout is usually 1% to 2% higher than the votes cast for President. In Illinois, in 1960, the turnout was 1.4% higher than the vote for President.

But in Cook County, the turnout was 2.2% higher. In other words, more than four times fewer people voted for President in Cook County relative to the rest of Illinois. That's a sign that a lot of Democrats didn't like Kennedy (which is also proven by the vote totals), but that they didn't dislike him enough to vote for Nixon. There were 60,000 more voters recorded in Cook County than voted for President. It would have been easy to add another 10,000 or 20,000 votes to Kennedy's Chicago total without anyone being the wiser.

Even if you take Illinois' 27 electoral votes and Hawaii's 3 electoral votes away from Kennedy and give them to Nixon, Kennedy still would have won the election with 273 electoral votes, 4 more than needed. The next closest state, Missouri, had been carried four years before in 1956 by the Democratic nominee, Adlai Stevenson, in the face of Eisenhower's landslide victory. So it would be hard to claim that Missouri was stolen from Nixon. But even taking Missouri away from Kennedy, Nixon still would not have won. The election would then have been thrown into the House of Representatives where the Democrats had a 262 to 174 margin, and a clear majority in 26 of the 50 state delegations. The next closest state was Nixon's margin in California.


Turnout is another measure that point to the legitimacy of Kennedy's win. The turnout in the 1952 election was 64.02% of the eligible population. In 1952, Eisenhower got 2,457,327 votes in Illinois, or 80,000 votes more than Kennedy got eight years later when the turnout in Illinois was 7.6% higher.

In 1956, nationwide turnout rose by one 500,000 votes from 1952, and as a percentage it fell to 60.2% of the eligibles. Yet, Eisenhower's vote total in Illinois, his opponent Adlai Stevenson's home state, rose to 2,623,327. So, in 1956, Ike got 250,000 more votes than Kennedy would get in Illinois four years later, when the turnout would be 350,000 votes or 7.9% higher. This is not a sign that Kennedy stole votes in Illinois. He did far worse than Ike on a much higher voter turnout. Kennedy got the lowest winning presidential vote in Illinois since 1948, 12 years before. He got less than 100,000 more votes than Franklin Roosevelt received in 1936, 24 years earlier.

Nixon Versus Eisenhower - the definitive proof

The definitive proof that Kennedy won the 1960 election honestly lies, not in looking at Kennedy's vote totals, but in comparing Nixon's vote to Eisenhower's. There are two categories of states: those where Nixon ran ahead of Ike, and those where he ran behind.

In 1960, Nixon ran 4.2% behind Eisenhower's vote total. However, turnout jumped by over 6.8 million votes, an increase of almost 11% over 1956. The 1960 turnout of 63.14% eligibles was still below Eisenhower's 1952 turnout of 64%.

Because of the increase in turnout, Nixon received more votes in 23 states than Eisenhower did in 1956. Kennedy carried only 8 of these states where Nixon ran ahead of Ike. Most of them were in the south: South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and Texas. Although Nixon ran ahead of Ike, he lost these southern states because turnout was up massively in the south. The Florida vote was up 37%, Louisiana up 30%, South Carolina up 28% Mississippi up 20%, Texas up 18%, North Carolina up 17%, Alabama up 13%; compared to less than 1% in West Virginia, less than 3% in New York and 5% in Massachusetts.

The reason for this huge turnout in the South was to protect the integrity of the election and keep it out of the House of Representatives. In 1960, an unpleged slate of electors won in Mississippi. These electors cast their votes for Senator Harry F. Byrd of Virgina. So did 6 of the 11 Democratic electors from Alabama and one of the Republican electors from Oklahoma. Orval E. Faubus, the State's Right's Party candidate for President in 1960, received 20% of the vote in Louisiana.

As it was, in spite of this massive increase in voter turnout, Kennedy just barely managed to carry Texas (50.5%), South Carolina (51.2%) and North Carolina (52.1%). If Kennedy had lost these three states, the election would have been thrown into the House of Representatives. Even though the Democrats controlled 26 House delegations, half a dozen of these were in the south and might not have voted for Kennedy in the end.

When Presidential elections are thrown into the House of Representatives, each state has only one vote. Had the 1960 election gone to the House there probably would have been a deadlock. It would have been chaos and a grave constitutional crisis would have resulted.That was the reason for the high turnout in the 1960 presidential election - the people were protecting their right to choose their own leaders.

So, except for the five southern states where Nixon ran ahead of Eisenhower but still lost to Kennedy, there were only three other states outside the south where Nixon got more votes than Ike but lost to Kennedy. They were Minnesota, Missouri and New Mexico, which Kennedy carried by the thin margins of 1.43%, 0.52% and 0.74% respectively.

Nixon carried the other 15 states where he got more votes than Eisenhower.

Nixon carried only 11 of the 25 states where his vote total trailed Eisenhower's. Most of the states Nixon carried in this category were traditionally solid Republican states. Nixon carried 6 of them with more than 55% of the vote, the figure normally considered to mark a landslide. Of those 11 states that Nixon carried with fewer votes than Ike, 80% elected Republican Senators and 70% elected Republican Governors.

Indiana and Wisconsin, which border Illinois, were two of the three states that elected Democratic Governors while Nixon was winning with less votes than Eisenhower. This shows that the most likely explanation for Kennedy's victory in Illinois was the strong showing of the Democratic candidates for Governor and Senate. They won by such big margins, they pulled Kennedy to victory. In the neighboring states of Wisconsin and Indiana, where Democratic candidates for Governor were winning by smaller margins, Kennedy lost.

Illinois was Nixon's 38th worst state compared to Eisenhower's vote in 1956 (and that's of 48 states, because Alaska and Hawaii weren't in the union in 1956.) New Hampshire and Vermont were the only states Nixon carried where he did worse compared to Ike than he did in Illinois. Vermont had voted Republican in every presidential race since the founding of the Republican Party 104 years earlier. Nixon carried Vermont with 58.7% of the vote while a Republican was being elected Governor. New Hampshire had voted Republican in 21 of the previous 26 presidential elections. Nixon carried New Hampshire with 53.4% of the vote while both a Republican Governor and a Republican Senator were emerging victorious.

Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and New Hampshire were all primary states where Kennedy campaigned heavily. In fact, Kennedy only carried in the November General Election 5 of the 10 primary states which he entered. This would seem to indicate that the well documented shenanigans and over spending of his primary campaigns did not do him any good in the November election.

Nixon's performance relative to Eisenhower, without any reference to Kennedy's vote totals, indicates that Nixon should have lost Illinois. Again, the amazing thing is that he came so close in Illinois, given that his vote total trailed Ike's by 9.7%.

If the Illinois numbers point to anything, they point to more ballot stuffing in downstate Illinois than in Chicago, because a fall-off of less than 1% is rare in presidential elections. While 2.23% of the Chicago voters didn't cast ballots for President, in the rest of Illinois only 0.5% didn't vote for president. The downstate vote for President is suspiciously high, and that is just one more reason Nixon didn't challenge the result. Winning Illinois would not have won Nixon the election, and challenging the result might have revealed inflated Republican vote totals downstate.

Kennedy Won Because He Was A Democrat

The real reason Kennedy won in 1960 was because he was a Democrat. Almost half of his delegate votes at the Los Angeles nominating convention (371 out of 806) came from states that Kennedy failed to carry in November.

Conversely, 100 of his 303 electoral votes came from states where he received not a single delegate vote at the convention.

In other words, the other Democrats, the ones who opposed him at the convention, turned out and delivered for Kennedy in the November General Election. Kennedy was also rich, handsome and had the guts to enter the primaries. The most that can be said about Kennedy's 1960 campaign is that his family wealth helped to buy him the Democratic nomination. But all the illegal shenanigans almost cost him the election. Without the dirty tricks, Kennedy should have won by a much bigger margin.

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