Historic Whispers: Kennedy Chooses Johnson as Presidential Running Mate

49 years ago in July, John F. Kennedy was gearing up for his race.

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Forty-nine years ago in July, a young senator from the state of Massachusetts won the Democratic nomination for president and pulled his former Senate rival onto the ticket. John F. Kennedy and running mate Lyndon B. Johnson began gearing up for a tough campaign against Vice President Richard Nixon. Whispers reported that as Kennedy was accepting the nomination, he was already thinking about challenging Nixon to a televised debate. Nixon was trying to lose some pounds, while Kennedy was trying to gain them. And Kennedy was making overtures to "Rockefeller Republicans" who were upset that their moderate Republican candidate did not make it on to the presidential ticket.

  • Senator John Kennedy, if nominated for the Presidency by the Democrats, will look to the Middle West for his running mate. Among those being talked about are Hubert Humphrey, Minnesota Senator; Orville Freeman, Minnesota Governor; Herschel Loveless, Iowa Governor; George Docking, Kansas Governor, and Gaylord Nelson, Wisconsin Governor.(July 4, 1960)
    • Richard Nixon is on a self-imposed "no dessert" diet. By dieting, he has cut his weight from 180 to 168 pounds and has lost much of the heaviness around his chin. His face is beginning to show lines. (July 4, 1960)
      • Senator Hubert Humphrey is tending to shy away from the suggestion that he accept second place on a ticket with Senator Kennedy. The Minnesota Senator would have to choose between running for re-election to the Senate from Minnesota or running for the Vice Presidency. The first choice is described as a sure thing, the second as an uncertainty. (July 11, 1960)
        • Lyndon Johnson, Texas Senator, had been assured of substantial support from some important Republicans if he should win the Democratic nomination for the Presidency. (July 18, 1960)
          • If Richard Nixon is defeated for the Presidency in 1960, some important Republicans are saying that party leaders will place some of the blame on Nelson Rockefeller, complicating the New York Governor's political future. (July 18, 1960)
            • Senator Kennedy, the Democratic nominee, plans to challenge Vice President Nixon to a television debate on issues of the campaign. The Vice President is reported to be inclined to reject the Kennedy proposal on the ground that a personal debate would be unwise. (July 25, 1960)
              • The "brain trust" built by Kennedy is busy preparing "position papers" on more than 120 issues. These papers will be used in answering mail requests for statements of Kennedy's position and in preparing speeches for the autumn campaign. (July 25, 1960)
                • Lyndon Johnson, Texas Senator, was picked for the vice-presidential nomination despite the fact that labor leaders had turned thumbs down on him for either first or second place on the Democratic ticket. Stuart Symington, Missouri Senator, had been given labor leaders' support for second place. (July 25, 1960)
                  • A five-point program of health, housing, education, farming and minimum-wage increase will be pushed by Senator Kennedy in the session of Congress to open in August. White House vetoes await and, under Kennedy plans, will be used as a campaign springboard. (July 25, 1960)
                    • Lyndon Johnson, if he becomes Vice President, is expected by Democrats to be as influential in Congress as when he was Senate Leader. Senator Johnson is being compared with John Nance Garner, who lost none of his influence when he shifted from House Speaker to Vice President under Franklin D. Roosevelt. (July 25, 1960)
                      • Governor Norman Rockefeller of New York still is viewed by some Republican leaders as the party's best choice for Vice President. (July 25, 1960)
                        • Richard Nixon, Vice President, is reported to be insisting that something definite be done about Castro and Communism in Cuba before the November elections. Communist penetration to the very doorstep of the U.S. is regarded as a political liability for the Republicans. (Aug. 1, 1960)
                          • John Kennedy, Democratic presidential nominee, is making overtures to "draft Rockefeller" groups—mostly young Republicans—who are disappointed that their man did not get on the Republican ticket. (Aug. 8, 1960)
                            • Richard Nixon, the Republican Party's nominee, will assemble a group of professors and other "intellectuals" to work on his side. Some will have Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology backgrounds, but Nixon will have fewer advisers from that area than Kennedy will. (Aug. 8 , 1960)
                              • John Kennedy, as the Democratic candidate, is being advised to get away from a "casual look." Kennedy is beginning to dress in crisply pressed business suits, button-down collars and gleaming oxfords instead of slacks and sweat shirts. Kennedy also is trying to put on weight before the grueling campaign ahead. (Aug. 8 , 1960)
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