Research Paper on 1960 West Virginia Primary: JFK Defeats Humphrey, Dispelling Catholic Handicap Belief

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1914 Words
Date:  2023-01-16


The May 1960 primary election of West Virginia still stands as a landmark as it dispelled the vastly and widely held belief which people had of becoming a Roman Catholic. The view was considered as a crippling handicap for any presidential candidate. However, in the overwhelmingly protestant state, Senator Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota was soundly defeated by Catholic senator John F. Kennedy, who won in fifty out of the participating 55 counties. Nevertheless, the primary participants for the 1960 presidential nomination of Democrats were senator Hubert Humphrey from Minnesota, former Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson, Senator Stuart Symington from Missouri, Senator Wayne Morse from Oregon, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson from Texas, Senator Pat Brown from California, and John F. Kennedy. Other contestants sought support in their respective regions or home states as the favorite son participants without any realistic winning chance in the nomination. Johnson, Stevenson, and Symington refused to campaign in the required presidential primaries which made the potential delegate count in the Democratic National Convention to be reduced.

Trust banner

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

Initially, suggestions dogged John F. Kennedy from some elders of the Democratic party (like former President Harry Truman who was always supporting Symington) that Kennedy was inexperienced and too youthful to become a president. Thus, the depicted critics gave suggestions for Kennedy to agree to be another Democrat's running mate. However, Kennedy realized that the action was a strategy which was touted by his opponents to keep the citizens and the public from taking him seriously, he stood in front of the crowd and stated that he was running for President and not the Vice President's seat. The primaries were the next step, and the Roman Catholic religion for Kennedy was a concern to the other candidates. Kennedy first challenged Hubert Humphrey in the Wisconsin primaries, and Kennedy won. Kennedy's attractive wife Jacqueline, together with his brothers and sisters all combed the state searching for votes making Hubert Humphrey complain that he was feeling like an abandoned independent merchant who was competing against a chain store. In the same scenario, some political experts could argue that the victory margin of Kennedy had originated from all the Catholic areas which made Humphrey continue with the competition in the vast and heavily protestant West Virginia state.

The first 1960 televised debate was then, conducted in West Virginia and Kennedy defeated Humphrey. The reason was that the campaigns of Humphrey were low on funds and were unable to compete for great advertisements as well as other drives of get-out-the-vote with Kennedy's well-organized and well-financed campaigns. In the end, Humphrey was defeated by Kennedy with more than 60% of the counted votes which made Humphrey end his presidential campaign. Therefore, West Virginia depicted that Kennedy, who was a Catholic, could win in a more massive state of protestants. However, although Kennedy campaigned and competed in only nine presidential primaries, his rivals, who were Symington and Johnson, failed to contest in any primary as they already knew that Kennedy would defeat them.

Even though Stevenson had been elected twice in the Democratic presidential party and had retained a loyal liberals' following, some of his landslide defeats to the Dwight Eisenhower Republican were leading the majority delegates and party leaders to look for a new and fresh face who had enough powers to win the national election. Therefore, following the depicted primaries, Kennedy was forced to travel around the country, giving speeches to the relevant state delegations as well as their leaders. As the Convention for Democrats was opened, Kennedy was the leading candidate, but some people still saw him as a leader who was short of the total delegate that was required for one to win.

In the month preceding voting West Virginia, Humphrey had been defeated by Kennedy in the Wisconsin primary where the winning percentage for Kennedy and Humphrey was 56-44 respectively which made Humphrey not to give up as the contestant. The many concerns of religion had conspicuously surfaced in the Wisconsin primary when an advertisement in the weekly newspapers and magazines in the entire state urged the citizens and Protestants to vote for Humphrey. The action made Kennedy campaign intensely in West Virginia where he was forced to visit the state more than twenty times as well as his surrogates (especially his brothers Ted and Bobby) who even made more trips than Kennedy.

As time progressed, Kennedy made more than a hundred stops in his primary campaign where a large group of people in the southern counties was almost entirely Protestants that were of great advantage to him. However, apart from religion, all the other benefits seemed to be favoring Kennedy as the contest progressed into West Virginia. Kennedy had a lot of money for staff salaries, advertising as well as other campaign expenses that made him enjoy his reputation as one of the heroes in the Second World War. Kennedy's opponent, Humphrey, had never served in the war and had also emerged slowly from Wisconsin in huge debts, forcing him to campaign in West Virginia very cheaply. Additionally, during the state to campaign for Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr., was also present to help Kennedy campaign and gain more votes. However, despite the seeming benefits of Kennedy, there was also a Lou Harris poll that lasted for three days before the primary election which showcased Humphrey with a 45-42 edge.

Kennedy moved forward and devoted some of the television appearances the Sunday evening before the election attempting to diffuse the religious concern. And, during the making of the president 1960 program by Theodore H. White, Kennedy depicted that when the president swears an oath of office using the Bible, then the president is swearing to support the division of the state and the church. However, if the same president breaks his oath, a crime against the constitution is not only being committed, for which he can and should be impeached by the Congress, but he is also sinning against God. Nonetheless, after the telecast for the Sunday evening, another poll was conducted by Lou Harris, and the results gave John F. Kennedy a slight edge. The statewide totals were out, and Kennedy won with 236,510 votes against Humphrey who had 152, 187 votes. Once the results were out, Humphrey announced that he was no longer a vying presidential candidate who made Kennedy be overall ruler, banning the religious concerns in the state entirely.

The election in the West Virginia primary was then proven to be a decisive battleground in the race. John F. Kennedy, who never faced serious opposition in the previous principals, suddenly faced a great problem from his opponent, Hubert Humphrey. And, for Kennedy to secure his nomination in the party, he had to first win in the delegates of West Virginia because losing would have effectively taken the decision of the floor of the convention and would have thrown it into the powerful hands of the urban bosses who were in the Democratic Party. Therefore, Kennedy was forced to avoid the depicted development as it would have favored more seasoned leaders of the party. Nevertheless, previously in 1958, when Louis Harris was commissioned by Kennedy to poll the voters of West Virginia to see how Kennedy would fare or be while running against Richard Nixon, Kennedy's Republican opponent was led by fourteen points. The Democrats of West Virginia were then polled by Harris in the same year and reported that Kennedy had led Humphrey by seventy percent of the total cast votes.

Kennedy on seeing that he had won, he decided that he had the required votes to carry the counties and the state and therefore, he would not actively campaign in the same area unless Humphrey entered the primary. Moreover, during that period, Hubert Humphrey had earlier decided that he would compete with Kennedy for the West Virginia post as he believed that voter would be appealed by his Midwestern populist background in the state far more than the polished Ivy League image for Kennedy. However, although Humphrey had most recently in the Wisconsin primary, his West Virginian prospects seemed promising. During the same period, most Kennedy teams were always confident that their candidate would trounce Humphrey as Humphrey was unable even to carry his state in the next position.

Earlier, during the spring period, the religion issue for Kennedy was into the electoral discussion again, splitting the votes of Wisconsin along the relevant religious lines leading to a steady support erosion in West Virginia. However, a month before the primaries day for the West Virginia elections, the tide had turned against the great Kennedy, and he suddenly found himself defeated by Humphrey by twenty points. When the county chairs were asked by the campaign board why the results were unexpected and why the voters had switched the allegiance, they replied that nobody knew that Kennedy was a Catholic when the relevant had been taken. Therefore, Kennedy was forced to respond by shifting his primary campaign aides to West Virginia, reaching for his close friends to spare their time, and go door-to-door distributing literature about him. He did the same for his host receptions, training county chairpersons of the campaign in 39 of the possible 59 state counties to phone banks of his staff for him to win the next nomination and election. Additionally, all his schedules were shifted to campaign in the entire state, which attracted Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr, to endorse his candidacy.

As time progressed, Kennedy decided to attack the bias of the anti-Catholic head-on, showcasing to the public across the state that he cannot accept and refuses to believe that he denied the right to become a leader and a president on the day he was baptized. Two days before the election, on May 8th, 1960, in a broadcast that was sponsored by the campaign, Roosevelt Jr. asked Kennedy how his religion would affect his seat or the post that he is vying for and Kennedy gave the same answer that he answered prior. That taking the official oath needed swearing on the Bible where the president would defend the church separation as well as that of the state and that any person who violated the oath, sinned against God and also broke the constitution. Therefore, to frame the concern of tolerance versus intolerance, Kennedy appealed for the long-held revulsion for the prejudice of West Virginia which placed Humphrey on the defensive as he championed his tolerance in his whole career, and Kennedy attacked Humphrey with revenge. Humphrey, who was always broke and short on funds during his campaigns, could not match the operation of Kennedy as it was always financed well. The action made Kennedy to soundly defeat his rival winning with 60.8% of the total cast votes.

Kennedy then won the New Hampshire primary without facing any opposition. The next election and primary were now in Wisconsin where Kennedy met Jerry Bruno who had arranged and organized William Proxmire's campaign for the United States' Senate. Kennedy had requested the latter to open the headquarters for the campaign for him in Milwaukee and on January 21st in 1960, he announced his competition intent in Wisconsin. As time progressed, Humphrey entered the Wisconsin primary which motivated Kennedy in his campaign as he had two main objectives; portraying his national appeal at acquiring votes and decisively defeating Humphrey in most counties and most parts of the state to end Humphrey's candidacy. Thus, while in the West Virginia primary, the main goal and aim of Kennedy during his campaign was to weaken the campaigns of Humphrey financially alongside using attack advertisements agains...

Cite this page

Research Paper on 1960 West Virginia Primary: JFK Defeats Humphrey, Dispelling Catholic Handicap Belief. (2023, Jan 16). Retrieved from

Free essays can be submitted by anyone,

so we do not vouch for their quality

Want a quality guarantee?
Order from one of our vetted writers instead

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the ProEssays website, please click below to request its removal:

didn't find image

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience and 25% off!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism