Kennedy Wins Presidency; 59 New Congressmen Win

Posted November 3, 2008 at 6:48pm

From the Nov. 9, 1960, issue of Roll Call:

Senator John F. Kennedy today won the Presidency, but not until he received an early morning push over the top from the voters of California, the home state of his opponent Vice President Nixon.

Shortly before noon, Republican National Chairman Thurston Morton conceded the Presidential election to Senator Kennedy.

The Senator won 21 states with 299 electoral votes and was leading in two more with 38 electoral votes. Eighteen electors in Alabama and Georgia, however, were not committed.

Vice President Nixon won 24 states with 185 electoral votes and was leading in two more states with 7 electoral votes. Unpledged electors were given Mississippi’s 8 votes. The Massachusetts Democrat needed 269 electoral votes to win.

The popular vote was close. With returns still incomplete, the Vice President had cut into the Kennedy lead until the Senator led by only the slim margin of 30,879,913 to 30,398,742. With just 50.39 percent of the popular vote behind him, the Democratic candidate gained certain victory by winning the support of states with the largest blocs of electoral votes.

Not since Woodrow Wilson’s election in 1916 had politicians waited so anxiously for the late returns from California. But as dawn came to Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, where the next President was catching five hours sleep, the early Kennedy lead in the West Coast state was confirmed by later returns, and the arduous suspense was broken.

The first bad omen for the ticket of Nixon and Lodge came as early as 8 PM when Connecticut darted swiftly into the Democratic camp. As other eastern returns started pouring in, Kennedy supporters exuded increasing confidence, some even boasting of a landslide.

Democratic party chief Henry M. Jackson claimed victory before 10 PM and talked about winning 400 electoral votes. But Democratic spirits were tamed by news of GOP successes in Ohio and Wisconsin.

Kennedy supporters waited till dawn to confirm that their man made it. A late morning Nixon trend in Illinois could not save the GOP candidate, but only cut down the size of his opponent’s victory.