|Table of Contents|
Front Cover 1
Front Cover 2
Table of Contents
List of Tables
The political context of the space race: 1957-1959
Space-race issues in the 1960 presidential campaign
The 1960 presidential campaign in Florida
THE 1960 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN
FLORIDA: DID THE SPACE RACE AND THE
NATIONAL PRESTIGE ISSUE PLAY AN
Randy Wade Babish
A thesis submitted to the Department of History in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts in History
UNIVERSITY OF NORTH FLORIDA
COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Unpublished work Randy Wade Babish
The thesis of Randy Wade Babish is approved:
A ceed th pment:
Accepted for the Uiversity:
Dean of Graduate Studies
f\p f s 330
Although my name appears on the title page and I assume full responsibility for the
final product and its content, the quality of this work was greatly enhanced by the guidance
of several individuals. First, the members of my thesis committee, Dr. David Courtwright
and Dr. James Crooks, who generously contributed much of their personal time to read my
drafts and provide insightful commentary. Their genuine interest in this project and my
academic career are greatly appreciated. Heartfelt thanks to my thesis advisor and
committee chair, Dr. Thomas Leonard, who shared this odyssey with me and ensured that I
stayed the course. I relied heavily on his experience, valued his candor, and greatly enjoyed
his sense of humor. The excellent staffs of the University of North Florida and University
of Florida libraries guided me through the research labyrinth and responded readily to all
my requests. Finally, I owe considerable gratitude to my wife, Susan. She was a valuable
combination of proofreader, typesetter, coach, cheerleader, drill sergeant, friend, and
partner. Ultimately, her love and support made all the difference.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
L IST O F TA B L E S ...............................................................................................................v
1. THE POLITICAL CONTEXT OF THE SPACE RACE: 1957 1959 ..................1
2. SPACE-RACE ISSUES IN THE 1960 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN..................32
3. THE 1960 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IN FLORIDA............................ ...71
4. C O N C LU SIO N ...................................................................................................... 113
BIBLIO G R APH Y ...................................................................................................... 122
V IT A .................................................................................................................. . ........... 131
LIST OF TABLES
1. Distribution of Editorials and Letters........................................................................73
2. Top Five Campaign Topics By Newspaper ...........................................................75
The landmark launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957, and the subsequent
perception that the United States trailed the Soviet Union, not only in space but also in
missiles, plagued the Eisenhower Administration for the rest of the decade. The
Democratic Party strategy for the 1960 presidential election included using the space
race, the alleged missile gap, and declining American prestige abroad to illustrate the
need for new leadership in the White House. Senator John F. Kennedy, the Democratic
nominee, effectively raised these issues throughout the general election to support his
"New Frontier" program and won by the narrowest popular vote margin in history.
Yet, using the same themes during his tour of Florida, Kennedy failed to carry the
state. An influx of Republican voters from other states, the absence of crucial Democratic
voting blocs, and a considerable defection of registered Democrats contributed to Vice
President Richard M. Nixon's Florida victory. Analysis of major Florida newspapers
revealed that Kennedy's religion, the liberal Democratic platform, referenda on proposed
amendments to the state constitution, and state office races generated more interest than the
space race, despite the presence of Cape Canaveral as the primary launch facility for the
U.S. space program. Kennedy's religion, civil rights, and states rights emerged as the key
issues for Florida voters and compelled many Democrats to vote for Nixon as the only
alternative or in protest.
THE POLITICAL CONTEXT OF THE SPACE RACE: 1957 1959
The phenomenon known as the space race had its roots in the International
Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957, which occurred between July 1, 1957 and December 31,
1958. In April 1955, the Soviet Union announced plans to launch a man-made satellite into
orbit during the IGY. Following the advice of the National Security Council and special
assistant Nelson A. Rockefeller, who argued that national prestige was at stake if the
Soviets reached this milestone first, President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced a similar
intent on behalf of the United States on July 29, 1955.' Both countries anticipated an
evolution in rocket technology that would result in the development of a new type of
weapon, the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The subsequent efforts by the two
superpowers to achieve the goal of launching a satellite followed divergent technological
strategies with unforeseen political consequences.
The Soviet Union pursued the ambitious objective of manned space flight after
experimental flights with dogs in 1951 demonstrated its feasibility. Early Soviet research
'Alan J. Levine, The Missile and Space Race (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger
Publishers, 1975), 52.
included space suit design, emergency escape systems for space capsules, and powerful
engines to launch heavy payloads.2 Soviet scientists envisioned payloads comprised of not
only human passengers but also scientific instruments and telemetry weighing thousands of
pounds. To attain the requisite velocity to escape the gravitational pull of the earth, Soviet
scientists chose a booster technology based on combining several smaller engines into a
larger unit to achieve greater thrust. These large boosters also powered the first generation
of Soviet ICBMs that carried primitive nuclear warheads weighing up to ten thousand
President Eisenhower had little immediate interest in manned space missions or
heavy payloads. As Walter A. McDougall noted, within the Eisenhower Administration,
"First and foremost, space was about spying, not because the United States was aggressive
but because the USSR was secretive."4 Satellites fulfilled Eisenhower's more pressing
objective of reconnaissance over the Soviet Union, having potential scientific benefits while
incurring significantly less expense and risk than manned space travel.5 In addition, the
American ICBM strategy focused on refining technology to produce smaller warheads,
reliable guidance systems, and stable propellants, forsaking a large short-term commitment
2 Michael Stoiko, Soviet Rocketry (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1970), 77.
3 Erlend A. Kennan and Edmund H. Harvey, Jr., Mission to the Moon: A Critical
Examination of NASA and the Space Program (New York: Morrow, 1969), 69.
4 Walter A. McDougall,... The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space
Age (New York: Basic Books, 1985), 194.
5 Howard E. McCurdy, Space and the American Imagination (Washington, D.C.:
Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997), 60.
to first-generation ICBMs in anticipation of more cost-effective second- and third-
Eisenhower considered the IGY effort a lower priority than military missile and
satellite programs and instructed government officials to act accordingly. His approach
may have cost the United States an opportunity to launch the first man-made earth satellite a
year ahead of Sputnik. Wehrer von Braun, head of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency's
(ABMA) rocket team, perceived the prestige implications of being the first country to
accomplish the feat and pushed for an acceleration of the schedule. A test launch of an
Army Jupiter C rocket on September 19, 1956 carried a satellite prototype in its nose cone.
Shortly before the launch, von Braun received instructions to replace the payload with a
sandbag of equivalent weight in order to prevent hard feelings on the competing Navy team.
The missile attained unprecedented distance, speed, and height and could easily have placed
a satellite into orbit. Primarily because of von Braun's impatience after this event, the
ABMA team obtained a reputation of fostering interservice rivalry and gradually lost much
of its support outside of the Army.6 Thus, the Eisenhower Administration laid the
groundwork for a potential Soviet lead in the nascent space race and inadvertently sowed
the seeds for the subsequent missile-gap and space-gap controversies. These issues
frustrated the Eisenhower Administration and the Republican Party from the launch of
Sputnik until the 1960 presidential election.
6 William B. Breuer, Race to the Moon: America's Duel with the Soviets (Westport,
Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 1993), 143-144.
Despite a shroud of secrecy, two events in the summer of 1957 hinted that the
Soviets were making progress in their satellite effort. In June, they published the
frequencies on which their satellite would transmit.7 The frequencies deviated from those
established by the IGY committee. Interestingly, they were within the range of most
common short-wave receivers, proving that propaganda was a concern from the beginning
of the Soviet space program.8 The second event was the first successful Soviet ICBM test,
announced on August 27. The Soviets claimed the ability to "direct rockets to any part of
the world" and alleged "the manned aircraft of the [U.S.] Strategic Air Command were
vulnerable to Soviet offensive rockets and to Soviet air defenses."9 Despite these
developments, Project Vanguard, the Navy satellite program and the favored group after the
ABMA team's fall from grace, continued at its original pace.
On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched the first man-made
earth satellite, Sputnik. The event raised the stakes in the space race and broadened the
focus of the Cold War. Sheldon Ungar stated, "Like the atom bomb, it [Sputnik] bisected
history and created a sense ofpre- and post-Sputnik worlds."'0 Previously, the United
States appeared to be technologically superior to the Soviet Union, communism was
contained in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, and the Cold War was waged primarily in
7 Levine, 56.
8 William H. Schauer, The Politics of Space: A Comparison of the Soviet and American
Space Programs (New York: Holmes and Meier Publishers, 1976), 102.
9 Edgar M. Bottome, The Missile Gap: A Study of the Formulation of Military and
Political Policy (Rutherford, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1971), 36.
10 Sheldon Ungar, "Moral Panics, the Military-Industrial Complex, and the Arms Race,"
The Sociological Quarterly 31 (Summer 1990): 175.
military terms. After Sputnik, the Soviet Union laid a claim to scientific preeminence, the
balance of power appeared to shift toward Moscow, the Cold War expanded outside of the
military arena, and American confidence was shaken to the core.
The Tass press release reporting the launch was relatively subdued, primarily
relating technical facts. Even so, it concluded with a statement clearly intended to evoke a
new sense of Soviet superiority: "Artificial earth satellites will pave the way for
interplanetary travel and, apparently, our contemporaries will witness how the freed and
conscientious labor of the people of the new socialist society makes the most daring dreams
of mankind a reality."" Sputnik remained aloft for ninety-four days and gathered valuable
scientific data concerning atmospheric conditions and its internal temperature.12 Each orbit,
accompanied by beeps transmitted from the satellite to short-wave radios throughout the
world, reinforced the concept that not only science but also civilization was irrevocably
The American reaction to the Soviet satellite has been characterized by terms such
as "alarm," "panic," "disbelief," "humiliation," and "exasperation." The average American
citizen was wholly unprepared for such a dramatic demonstration of Soviet technological
ability. Many of the fundamental beliefs concerning the relative merits of the Soviet and
American ways of life were suddenly and vividly challenged. Edward Diamond and
Stephen Bates summarized the typical American feelings: "Overnight the self-assured
center began coming apart. Inventive, free-enterprise America, home of Edison and the
Roger D. Launius, NASA: A History of the U.S. Civil Space Program (Malabar,
Florida: Krieger Publishing Company, 1994), 145.
Wright brothers,... was being overtaken-surpassed?-by a backward, totalitarian,
Communist nation."'3 Arnold L. Horelick attributed some of the intensity of the reaction to
latent fear stemming from the Soviet ICBM test announcement in August. Faced with
tangible evidence of the Soviet space program, one could no longer discount that
announcement as hollow boasting or mere propaganda.14
Media coverage of Sputnik in the U.S. certainly contributed to negative reactions
from American citizens. Jack Lule concluded that members of the press used the launch of
Sputnik "as a means to enact powerful dramas that evoked and extended ongoing cultural
concerns over the Cold War, atomic weapons, perceived shifts of power and prestige, and
deteriorating national values." He described the three dramas presented in news reports as
defeat, mortification, and dream and dread. The drama of defeat simply characterized
Sputnik as a Cold War triumph for the Soviet Union and a loss for the United States. The
drama of mortification involved mass introspection on the possible flaws in American
society that could have allowed such a defeat, including perceived deficiencies in education
and government leadership, and resulted in a strong desire to fix these problems once
identified. Finally, the drama of dream and dread portrayed a more romantic aspect of the
12 Stoiko, 81.
13 Edward Diamond and Stephen Bates, "Sputnik," American Heritage 48 (October
14 Arnold L. Horelick, "The Soviet Union and the Political Uses of Outer Space," in
Outer Space in World Politics, ed. Joseph M. Goldsen (New York: Praeger Publishers,
event, whereby Americans simultaneously saw hope and danger in the enigmatic realm of
While Lule's study pertained to newspaper coverage, Cheryl L. Marlin conducted a
similar study of weekly news publications and reached similar conclusions. Marlin focused
on the three magazines with the highest circulation figures between October and December
1957, which were Time followed by Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report. Time
couched its coverage squarely in Cold War terms, essentially ignoring scientific aspects,
and perpetuated what Lule characterized as the drama of defeat. Symbolizing the drama of
the dream, Newsweek displayed a fascination of the unknown and celebrated the scientific
potential and pioneer spirit surrounding the space race. Marlin compared the magazine's
attitude toward the competition with that of"a kid whose father won't pass the other cars on
the road,... urging, 'Let's go!'" Finally, U.S. News and World Report portrayed the
Sputnik launch as a surprising but surmountable setback and exhorted Americans to
participate in regaining the lead in space.16 This posture correlated to Lule's mortification
drama. Clearly, perceptions of the Sputnik launch in the media conflicted and added to the
collective sense of public frustration.
President Eisenhower held a press conference on October 9, which Stephen
Ambrose characterized as "the most hostile in [Eisenhower's] career."'7 Fielding repeated
15 Jack Lule, "Roots of the Space Race: Sputnik and the Language of the U.S. News,"
Journalism Quarterly 68 (Spring-Summer 1991): 80-85.
16 Cheryl L. Marlin, "Space Race Propaganda: U.S. Coverage of the Soviet Sputniks in
1957," Journalism Quarterly 64 (Summer-Autumn 1987): 549, 559.
Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President (New York: Touchstone,
questions concerning anxiety over national security and whether the United States would
ever catch up to the Soviet space program, Eisenhower maintained that the United States
was in no imminent danger and would not engage in a costly competition with the Soviet
Union. He stated unequivocally, "Never has it been considered as a race; merely an
engagement on our part to put up a vehicle of this kind during the period that I have already
mentioned [the IGY]." Moreover, he dismissed any correlation between the ability to
launch a satellite and the ability to target American cities accurately with an ICBM. In a
reference to the August announcement of the Soviet ICBM test, Eisenhower observed that
landing "in the target area" meant little because "you can make a target area the size you
Eisenhower's calmness was attributable in large part to his possession of
considerable classified information unavailable to the public. Intelligence advisors
informed him in November 1956 that the Soviet Union was approximately one year away
from possessing the ability to launch a satellite. Furthermore, U-2 reconnaissance flights
produced photographs of the SS-6 missile slated for the launch of Sputnik. Although this
evidence could not pinpoint a launch date, knowledge of a pending launch existed.19 Thus,
the element of surprise that significantly influenced public reaction did not affect the
Eisenhower Administration as deeply. The data gathered by the U-2 flights contradicted the
notion that a surprise attack threatened and provided the president with a certain level of
18 "Transcript of the President's News Conference on Foreign and Domestic Matters,"
New York Times, 10 October 1957, 14.
comfort regarding the status of the Soviet ICBM program.20 Eisenhower also deduced that
Sputnik's weight, 184 pounds, revealed a Soviet lag in communications miniaturization
technology. When he stated to the press that he harbored no apprehension concerning U.S.
national security based on Sputnik, he was sincere.21
Unfortunately for Eisenhower, he was unable to substantiate his assurances to the
press and the public with facts. The U-2 photographs were classified and there had been no
public acknowledgement of U.S. flights over the Soviet Union. Exposing the program at
such a critical juncture would compromise a significant intelligence asset. Consequently,
Eisenhower frustrated his audience and created doubts concerning the integrity of his
statements. This frustration fueled criticism and public anxiety.
Stephen Ambrose noted that Eisenhower, who admitted that the magnitude of the
American reaction surprised him, had no valid cause for astonishment by what he heard and
read after the launch of Sputnik. Eisenhower often stated that ICBMs possessed a greater
psychological than military value and predicted a wave of fear accompanying the realization
that the Soviet Union could launch nuclear weapons from within its borders. Even so,
Eisenhower expressed disappointment over the "crisis in self-confidence" caused by the
19 David Callahan and Fred I. Greenstein, "Reluctant Racer: Eisenhower and U.S. Space
Policy," in Spaceflight and the Myth of Presidential Leadership, eds. Roger D. Launius and
Howard E. McCurdy (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1997), 26.
20 Ambrose, 503-504.
21 Diamond, 92.
launch. Fundamental American beliefs held for decades and recently reinforced by the
triumph in World War II seemed "swept away" overnight.22
McGeorge Bundy offered a plausible explanation to this mutual misunderstanding
between the president and his people. Bundy pointed out that while Sputnik and its
underlying technology emerged without warning to America and indeed, most of the world,
the Eisenhower Administration actually planned for such a contingency since 1954. The
president endured countless briefings on the effect of a Soviet first strike and made the
necessary decisions to establish a suitable deterrent, thus the scenario was familiar and he
felt confident in U.S. preparations. Bundy concluded:
[Eisenhower] really did not understand that the reactions of his countrymen were
much more than a response to partisan propaganda, or that those who he saw as
merely partisan were often themselves genuinely-if wrongly-fearful. Because of
his insufficient understanding of those fears, he responded in ways that made them
grow. To his critics he seemed not to be taking the danger at its true value.23
A mere month after Sputnik dominated world headlines, the launch of Sputnik II on
November 3 underscored Soviet prowess and served notice that the first satellite was no
mere gimmick or stroke of luck. Sputnik II carried a sophisticated 1,120-pound payload,
including a dog named Laika to facilitate biological experiments. Laika lived for almost a
week in orbit and confirmed the feasibility of manned space flight.24 The space race was
barely thirty days old and yet the Soviets boasted two successful launches, metaphorically
lapping the Americans before they left the starting blocks.
22 Ambrose, 449.
23 McGeorge Bundy, Danger and Survival (New York: Random House, 1988), 341-342.
24 William Shelton, Man's Conquest of Space, with a foreword by James E. Webb
(Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 1968), 10-11.
Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev recognized this propaganda coup and quickly
moved to capitalize on it. The four space-related themes adopted and used throughout
Khrushchev's tenure were Western vulnerability to Soviet ICBMs, Soviet scientific
superiority, Soviet dedication to the peaceful conquest of space, and the integral role of
Premier Khrushchev in the space program.25 Khrushchev flaunted Soviet space exploits as
proof of communist superiority over capitalism. He claimed that Soviet rocket technology
rendered obsolete two important elements of U.S. strategy, long-range bombers and forward
bases in Western Europe.26 These brash claims, ostensibly corroborated by the satellite
launches, resulted in a widely held but erroneous belief that the United States lagged behind
the Soviets in the relative number of ICBMs in their arsenal.
The myth of the missile gap, an important issue in the 1960 election, was the most
enduring legacy of Khrushchev's "rocket rattling" practices. Khrushchev initiated a
deliberate and calculated campaign to convince the West that the Sputniks signaled the
beginning of a growing Soviet ICBM advantage. The Soviet claims were fraudulent, but
the highly publicized satellite achievements, with no comparable U.S. feats, gave credence
to the statements. Arnold L. Horelick and Myron Rush explained the correlation between
the Soviet space program and the missile gap myth:
The space program afforded the Soviet leaders an opportunity to stage a sustained
and non-provocative military demonstration, which was an integral part of the
ICBM deception. The reputation acquired as a result of their space program
provided Soviet leaders with a reservoir of credibility on which to draw for purposes
25 McDougall, 237.
26 Arnold L. Horelick and Myron Rush, Strategic Power and Soviet Foreign Policy
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966), 48.
of strategic deception. The reservoir was regularly replenished by new and more
spectacular space ventures.27
The misperception prevailed into the next decade, affecting U.S. politics and influencing
world opinion despite American efforts to refute the claims.
Following the two Sputniks, Western Europeans lost confidence in the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in general and the United States in particular.
According to polls conducted periodically by the United States Information Agency
(USIA), American prestige abroad declined after the Soviet launches. A poll taken in 1955
in Great Britain, France and West Germany showed a mere 6 percent from all countries felt
that the Soviet Union was militarily superior to the NATO powers. A similar poll taken in
November 1957 reflected the impact of the Soviet satellite launches. When asked whether
the Western powers lagged behind the Soviet Union militarily, 21 percent in Great Britain,
20 percent in France, 12 percent in Italy, and 10 percent in West Germany responded in the
affirmative. When asked whether the United States alone was mightier than the Soviets, 50
percent in Great Britain and 25 percent in France answered no.28
Faced with a crescendo of dissatisfaction at home and abroad, but firm in the belief
that no risk to national security existed, Eisenhower chose to act quickly in the civilian
arena through education and science. Shortly after the launch of Sputnik, he requested that
the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) revise a draft education bill to
emphasize science and mathematics rather than school construction in order to address "the
27 Ibid., 39.
28 McDougall, 240.
present mood" of the country.29 He also planned a series of radio and television addresses
in which he would educate, inform, and reassure the American public. He only delivered
two before suffering a stroke on November 26, 1957 that forced cancellation of the
remaining addresses.30 Consequently, his responses, though initiated rapidly, lacked the
publicity required to demonstrate vigorous action in the prevailing atmosphere of doubt and
In his first address, on November 7, Eisenhower announced the creation of the
President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) and the position of Special Assistant for
Science and Technology. PSAC resulted from a meeting on October 15 with the Science
Advisory Committee of the Office of Defense Mobilization (ODM-SAC), a civilian body
composed of fourteen prominent scientists. During the dialogue between Eisenhower and
ODM-SAC, the concept of a presidential science advisor backed by a science advisory
committee evolved.31 Eisenhower envisioned a body that would not only facilitate
comprehension of complex scientific issues within his administration and provide impartial
technological advice, but also demonstrate to the American people that he valued and
29 Barbara Barksdale Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War: The Sputnik Crisis and the
National Defense Education Act of 1958 (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1981),
30 James R. Killian, Jr., Sputnik, Scientists, and Eisenhower: A Memoir of the First
Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology (Cambridge, Massachusetts:
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 1977), 26.
3 Ibid., 15-16.
sought sound scientific advice.32 James R. Killian, Jr., president of the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology and a former ODM-SAC member, received the first appointment as
Special Assistant for Science and Technology.
The Eisenhower Administration suffered four setbacks following the launch of
Sputnik II that exacerbated the atmosphere of criticism surrounding the White House. First,
Senator Lyndon Johnson (D, Tex.), majority leader and chairman of the Preparedness
Investigating Subcommittee of the Committee on Armed Services, initiated hearings on
November 25, 1957 that he described as a "'searching inquiry' into United States defense
posture."33 Paul K. Conkin characterized the hearings as "one of the largest and best
conducted congressional investigations in American history." He also noted that the
Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee "almost alone had the trained staff, and in
Johnson the political clout, to investigate what was soon known as the missile gap."34
Determined to avoid a political witch-hunt, Johnson established parameters for the hearings
to ensure that the future of American security took precedence, and witnesses were chosen
based on knowledge rather than party affiliation.5 In less than two months the
subcommittee compiled three thousand pages of testimony from thirty-four witnesses,
including scientists, military officers, Eisenhower Administration officials, and
32 Richard Vernon Damms, "Scientists and Statesmen: President Eisenhower's Science
Advisors and National Security Policy, 1953-1961" (Ph.D. diss., The Ohio State University,
33 Bottome, 51.
34 Paul K. Conkin, Big Daddy from the Pedernales: Lyndon Baines Johnson (Boston:
Twayne Publishers, 1986), 144.
representatives from the aerospace industry. Johnson also cited nearly two hundred
interviews conducted by the subcommittee's staff and "searching questionnaires" sent to
"industrial organizations, leading scientists and engineers, and leading educators."36
On January 7, 1958, Johnson briefed the Senate Democratic caucus on the
subcommittee's findings. Without criticizing Eisenhower directly, Johnson clearly held the
administration responsible for America's slow start in the space race. He stated, "That the
Soviet achievements are tangible and visible, while ours are not, is a result of policy
decisions made within the governments of the respective nations. It is not... the result of
any great relative superiority of one nation's science over the other's." The subcommittee
developed fourteen proposals, including strengthening of the Air Force, acceleration of
research and development programs, acceleration of intermediate range ballistic missile
(IRBM) and ICBM development, and renewed emphasis on mathematics and science
In the midst of the Johnson hearings, Project Vanguard provided a second setback.
With pressure mounting daily to match the Soviet accomplishments, the next scheduled
Vanguard launch, originally intended as another in a series of deliberate preliminary tests,
was hastily modified to include a three-pound satellite. After some highly publicized
delays, the launch date was finally set for December 6, 1957. It was a dismal failure. The
35 Robert Dallek, Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960 (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 530.
36 "Text of Johnson's Statement on Status of Nation's Defenses and Race for Space,"
New York Times, 8 January 1958, 10.
rocket did not clear the launch tower and exploded, sending its beeping payload into the
swamp surrounding the complex at Cape Canaveral, Florida.38 Foreign newspapers ran
headlines calling the U.S. satellite "Flopnik," "Stay-putnick," "Kaputnik," and
"Sputtemick." Washington insiders circulated a joke that named the satellite "Civil
Servant" because "It won't work and you can't fire it."39 Eisenhower, at home recuperating
from his stroke, expressed "disappointment" over the incident.40
Congressional members from both parties expressed varying degrees of despair and
indignation. Johnson described the incident as "one of the best publicized and most
humiliating failures in our history." Richard Russell (D, Ga.), chairman of the Senate
Committee on Armed Services, called it "a grievous blow to our already waning world
prestige." The Republican response focused on the level of publicity leading up to the
launch, and many believed that the press shared the blame for the negative launch results.
Senate minority leader William Knowland (R, Ca.) stated, "The Soviet Union may well
have had a dozen [failures] before they launched the first sputnik."41 Reacting sharply to
the criticism, Vice President Richard M. Nixon said, "Sure we failed. We have before and
we will again, but we need to keep our sense of proportion. I say we should get behind our
38 Shelton, 12.
39 Eric Frederick Goldman, The Crucial Decade-and After: America, 1945-1960 (New
York: Knopf, 1966), 310-311.
40 Richard E. Mooney, "Rocket Disappoints President; He Calls for Report on Failure,"
New York Times, 7 December 1957, 1.
41 "Capital Dismayed at Test's Failure," New York Times, 7 December 1957, 1, 9.
missile people and help them. Let's get away from our wailing walls and act like
Only two weeks after the Vanguard failure, leaks of a classified civil defense report
fanned the flames of criticism against the Eisenhower Administration. Early in 1957,
Eisenhower appointed a civilian committee, designated the Security Resources Panel
(SRP), to assess American civil defense policy and review a Federal Civil Defense
Administration proposal for a $40 billion national bomb and blast shelter program. H.
Rowan Gaither, chairman of the RAND Corporation and the Ford Foundation, led the
panel. Eisenhower gave the SRP six months to present a report of its findings. Without
Eisenhower's knowledge or consent, the committee broadened its focus to a general survey
of U.S. national defense when Robert C. Sprague assumed leadership from an ailing
Gaither.43 Only special assistant Robert Cutler knew of this change and neglected to share
the information with Eisenhower.44
When the committee delivered its report orally to Eisenhower on November 4,
1957, he was surprised and slightly agitated at the change of focus but listened to the entire
presentation, asking only that the group check its figures prior to delivering the written
report to the National Security Council (NSC). The SRP released the report to the NSC on
November 7. While Eisenhower shared some of the SRP's views on the need to protect
SAC bombers and accelerate the missile program, he believed the report magnified the
42 Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, 13 December 1957, 1302.
43 Robert A. Divine, The Sputnik Challenge (New York: Oxford University Press,
44 Bundy, 336.
extent of the Soviet threat. He also dismissed the recommendation of an $8 billion increase
in defense spending over the next five to eight years.45
Although the Gaither report received a cool response at the White House, a series of
press leaks brought it to the public's attention. Johnson requested a copy for the
Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee body of testimony. After initial resistance,
Eisenhower consented to an off-the-record subcommittee briefing by Killian.46 Publication
of this information perpetuated the missile gap myth and the belief that the United States
was no longer safe from Soviet attack. It also supported allegations that despite warnings
from his own advisors Eisenhower did not fully comprehend the enhanced Soviet threat.
The final setback occurred on January 6, 1958, when the New York Times printed a
full-page summary of a national defense study released by the Special Studies Project of the
Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Inc. The Special Studies Project, chaired by former Eisenhower
special assistant Nelson A. Rockefeller, sought to "assess major problems and opportunities
... likely to confront America over the next ten years." The panel included such prominent
individuals as Chester Bowles, Gen. Lucius Clay, Henry Luce, Dean Rusk, and Edward
Teller. The group established seven sub-panels to focus on various topics. The published
report, titled "International Security-The Military Aspect," embodied the work of the
45 Divine, 37-39.
46 Ibid., 77-78.
47 "Summary of Rockefeller Group's Report on Military Aspects of National Security,"
New York Times, 6 January 1958, 18.
Some of the Security Panel's recommendations echoed those of the SRP, such as
accelerated missile development, improved SAC asset protection, and increased defense
spending. The Rockefeller report also suggested an increase in defense spending of $3
billion per year until 1965, excluding any additional funds required for mutual assistance
and civil defense. In addition, the Rockefeller report called for continued aircraft
modernization into the next decade, additional troop transports, equipping ships and
submarines with missiles, and a military pay hike. The report concluded that Americans
could "achieve the necessary military power while preserving and expanding other elements
of our strength, such as health, education, and economic growth."48 With Rockefeller
joining the fray, the criticism became bipartisan. Eisenhower could no longer dismiss the
negative comments as the product of vindictive Democrats or an overzealous press corps.
Concerns over national security compelled Eisenhower to devote his entire State of
the Union address on January 9, 1958 to "matters bearing directly upon our security and
peace." His only direct reference to the Sputniks occurred while he cautioned against
ignoring the Soviet economic threat. He stated, "Admittedly, most of us did not anticipate
the intensity of the psychological impact upon the world of the launching of the first earth
satellite. Let us not make the same kind of mistake in another field, by failing to anticipate
the much more serious impact of the Soviet economic offensive." Eisenhower remained
true to his belief that the United States incurred no enhanced military threat from the Soviet
Union. Of his eight proposed initiatives, only two related to the military. The rest dealt
with economic aid, world trade, international scientific cooperation, education, and
Eisenhower hoped to push his education bill emphasizing science and mathematics
through congress quickly but was disappointed. Representative Carroll Kearns (R, Pa.) and
Senator H. Alexander Smith (R, N.J.), a prior champion of Eisenhower education bills,
introduced the HEW bill on January 27, 1958. On the same day, Representative Carl Elliott
(D, Ala.) and Senator Lister Hill (D, Ala.) introduced a competing bill. Hill chaired the
Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, through which all education legislation passed.
Smith was the ranking Republican on this committee.50 Months of hearings ensued,
including testimony by such distinguished scientists as Wehrner von Braun and Vice
Admiral Hyman G. Rickover. Congress finally approved the legislation on August 23,
1958 and Eisenhower signed the National Defense Education Act into law on September 2,
nearly a year after Sputnik entered earth orbit." While the law succeeded in establishing
renewed support for scientific education, its value in demonstrating prompt response by the
White House to the Soviet satellite lead was marginal due to the time lag between the two
In the hostile political climate created by the Sputniks, the Johnson hearings, the
Vanguard failure, the leaks of the Gaither report, and the release of the Rockefeller report,
Eisenhower desperately needed a high-profile satellite success. PSAC formed a Space
49 "Text of President Eisenhower's Message to Congress on the State of the Union,"
New York Times, 10 January 1958, 8.
50 Clowse, 66, 78.
51 Ibid., 84-90.
Assessment Panel to "review all elements of the existing space program and to make a
precautionary assessment of the prospects for a successful American satellite launch."52
This panel concluded that Wehrner von Braun's ABMA team provided the best chance for a
successful launch in the near term. Based on the panel's recommendation, von Braun
received a mandate to strive for a satellite launch as soon as possible. He brashly assured
success within ninety days and his team delivered on his promise.53 With the launch of
Explorer I on January 31, 1959, America finally entered the space age. The eighteen-pound
satellite reached a maximum height of 1,573 miles in orbit and transmitted for 112 days,
relaying data on cosmic rays, micrometeorites, and temperature in outer space. Using
instrumentation developed by Dr. James A. Van Allen, Explorer I discovered the presence
of a solar radiation belt surrounding the earth, knowledge of which was critical for the
pursuit of manned space flight.54
During March 1958, a flurry of activity gave the United States a numerical lead in
the space race. On March 5, the ABMA successfully launched Explorer II but it failed to
attain orbit due to a malfunction. The Navy finally placed Vanguard I into orbit on March
17, and the statistics it gathered proved that the shape of the earth resembled a pear rather
than a sphere. It was also the first satellite to use solar power and continued to transmit data
for more than three years. The ABMA attained the American lead by launching Explorer
III on March 26. Designed to continue the experiments conducted by Explorer I, it
52 Damms, 313.
53 Shelton, 14.
54 Ibid., 16-18.
provided further data on the Van Allen radiation belt as well as temperature readings and
micrometeorite impact analysis.5
On the same day as the Explorer III launch, PSAC released "A Statement by the
President and the Introduction to Outer Space," the Eisenhower Administration's formal
announcement of the new U.S. space program. It listed national prestige among the
motivations for establishing such a program. Specifically, it stated, "To be strong and bold
in space technology will enhance the prestige of the United States among the peoples of the
world and create added confidence in our scientific, technological, industrial, and military
strength.""6 In a projected timeline for the new space program, PSAC conservatively
predicted a manned flight to the moon and back in two decades. Showing deference to
Eisenhower's reluctance to characterize any space effort as a competition with the Soviet
Union, the report concluded by stating that space science should not be promoted to the
detriment of existing scientific endeavors and that the U.S. should be "cautious and modest
in our predictions and pronouncements about future space activities."57
Eisenhower requested congressional authorization for a civilian space agency on
April 2, 1958, a week after the release of the "Introduction to Outer Space." He saw no
justification for military control of the space program because, in his mind, the satellite and
missile efforts were distinct. While the launch vehicle for both was essentially the same
55 Eugene M. Emme, Aeronautics and Astronautics: An American Chronology of
Science and Technology in the Exploration of Space, 1915-1960, with a foreword by Hugh
L. Dryden (Washington, DC: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1961), 96.
56 Launius, 150.
57 Ibid., 153.
rocket in many cases, he believed the payload should dictate the jurisdiction. The
interservice squabbling experienced to date and the success of the civilian PSAC reinforced
his views. PSAC illustrated that civilians harbored less bias and self-interest and exhibited
a level of candor the military services lacked.58 The proposed legislation from the White
House reflected this premise by establishing a civilian authority reporting directly to the
president modeled on an expanded National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics
Lyndon Johnson, as chairman of the new Senate Special Committee on Space and
Astronautics, co-sponsored the bill with Senator Henry Styles Bridges (R, N.H.) on April
14. He considered development of a federal space agency a high national priority and
sought to avoid partisanship when possible. Despite temptation to resist Eisenhower's idea
of placing the new agency in civilian hands, Johnson perceived the political expedience of
the arrangement and realized that in practice the military would not be excluded from
participating in the space program. Johnson also yielded to Eisenhower on the role of the
new Space Council, establishing it as an advisory body for the agency administrator rather
than a steering committee to set policy direction and prioritize projects.60 Johnson's pivotal
role in the bill's success further identified him with the space program, and he later
described it as one of his three proudest achievements as a senator.61
58 Peter J. Roman, Eisenhower and the Missile Gap (Ithaca, New York: Cornell
University Press, 1995), 204-205.
59 Shelton, 18.
60 Dallek, 533-534.
61 Conkin, 137.
Congress approved the National Aeronautics and Space Act on July 16, 1958, and
Eisenhower signed it into law on July 29. The act created the National Aeronautics and
Space Agency (NASA) as an independent body to replace NACA. NASA's first
administrator, T. Keith Glennan, was appointed by Eisenhower on August 8 and confirmed
by the Senate one week later. An entry from Glennan's diary reveals that he concurred
philosophically with Eisenhower on the purpose of NASA. He listed several guiding
principles for NASA, including contracting most of its work to universities and the private
sector, establishing an "orderly launch vehicle program" to replace the "missile mess," and
recognizing propaganda as an element of the program but subordinating its value to that of a
By the time NASA officially began operating on October 1, 1958, the United States
still possessed a numeric lead over the Soviets in the satellite race. After the stunning one-
two punch of the first two Sputniks, the only Soviet success in 1958 was Sputnik III,
launched on May 15. The payload weighed in at over three thousand pounds, three times
heavier than Sputnik II.63 By contrast, Explorer IV, launched three days before Eisenhower
signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act and the heaviest American payload to date,
was still lighter than Sputnik. However, its instrumentation was sophisticated enough to
successfully measure the electron densities resulting from an atmospheric atomic bomb test
on September 6, 1958. The design philosophies of the two programs remained intact, and
62 McDougall, 196.
63 Stoiko, 85.
both produced successful scientific results. The Soviets continued to push the limits of
payload weight as the United States refined its miniaturization technology.
While progressing on the scientific front, politically Eisenhower and the
Republicans remained on the defensive. The Democratic strategy in the 1958 congressional
elections proved successful and resurfaced in 1960. The Democrats charged that
Republican idleness and indifference resulted in Soviet supremacy in a host of areas,
including education, missiles, satellites, economic growth, bombers, science, and national
prestige.64 For example, Senator Stuart Symington (D, Mo.), a candidate for the presidency
in 1960, used his positions on the Armed Services and Aeronautical and Space Sciences
committees to sustain charges of a missile gap. This approach earned him a landslide
victory in his 1958 bid for re-election.65 Walter McDougall asserted, "To those in the know,
the limited importance of the Soviet satellite [launches] and the true proportions of military
might were clear." However, every Eisenhower critic seized on the Sputniks "as an
opportunity to sell their programs as cures to the presumed ailments of American life that
contributed to the 'loss' of the space race."66
The results of the 1958 election represented a large setback for the Republicans and
provided momentum to the Democrats going into the 1960 campaign. Theodore H. White
described the Republicans as being "at the lowest ebb since the zenith of the New Deal in
1936," controlling "only fourteen of the forty-eight governorships of the nation and only
64 Ambrose, 450.
65 Ibid., 473
66 McDougall, 132.
seven of the forty-eight state legislatures chosen in the previous day's elections."67 The
Democrats also enjoyed almost a two-to-one advantage in both the House of
Representatives and the Senate, making Eisenhower the first president to encounter three
successive congresses controlled by the opposition party.68
Despite the rapid progress of the American space program, it still lacked a "first."
After the unprecedented distance of 70,000 miles attained by Pioneer I on October 11, the
ABMA planned to launch Pioneer III, a space probe with a mission to bypass the moon and
attain solar orbit. Success in this venture would give the United States the distinction of
creating the first man-made planet. Symbolically, the launch occurred on the anniversary of
the Vanguard I explosion, December 6, 1958. However, the first stage rockets shut down
four seconds too soon, depriving the probe of the necessary velocity to reach the sun.69
Four weeks later, the Soviets launched Luna I with the same mission. It entered orbit
around the sun on January 7, 1959, and in the process discovered the phenomenon known
as "solar wind."70 While the Soviets again grabbed the headlines, the fact that the United
States nearly accomplished the feat first illustrated the parity of the two programs.
Eisenhower's State of the Union address on January 9, 1959, reflected the
accomplishments over the past year. Instead of focusing solely on national defense, as he
had the previous year, he returned to a traditional format in which all areas of government
67 Theodore H. White, The Making of the President 1960 (New York: Atheneum House,
68 Ambrose, 474.
69 William Shelton, American Space Exploration: The First Decade (Boston: Little,
Brown and Company, 1967), 83-85.
received attention. He also had substantive space accomplishments on which to report. He
proudly stated, "We have successfully placed five satellites in orbit, which have gathered
information of scientific importance never before available. Our latest satellite illustrates
our steady advance in rocketry and foreshadows new developments in world-wide
Contrasting Eisenhower's upbeat appraisal of the U.S. space program, the House
Select Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration issued a stern caveat that the
United States must engage in a "bold and dynamic" space effort or face "national
extinction."72 In findings released on January 10, 1959, the committee firmly stated, "It
cannot be overemphasized that the survival of the free world-indeed, all the world-is
caught up in the stakes [of the space race]." The committee noted a general assessment by
witnesses that the American program lagged anywhere between twelve and eighteen
months behind its Soviet counterpart. Of greater concern was the prediction that a
dedicated effort would require five years to bridge that gap. The report concluded, "our
scientific race, not alone in space but in the broader realm of science, is serious and urgent
and demands the utmost effort by this Nation."73
70 Stoiko, 136.
71 "Text of President Eisenhower's Message to Congress on the State of the Union,"
New York Times, 10 January 1959, 6.
72 John W. Finney, "House Unit Urges Bold Space Plan," New York Times, 11 January
73 "Excerpts from the House Report on Space Policy," New York Times, 11 January
Reacting to the successful Luna I mission, on January 17 Lyndon Johnson
announced a new round of Senate hearings conducted jointly by the Preparedness
Investigating Subcommittee and the Committee on Aeronautics and Space Sciences, both of
which Johnson chaired. The Senate created the Committee on Aeronautics and Space
Sciences in conjunction with the National Aeronautics and Space Act to provide oversight
for NASA and other civilian space efforts. The purpose of the new hearings was to assess
progress since the highly publicized Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee hearings the
previous year. Johnson sought to determine if overall defense and space efforts were
adequate. He observed, "The technicalities of who is ahead of whom in certain fields of
research and development are only of secondary interest to the American people. They
want to know what the score is when all of the factors are added together."74 The hearings
adjourned a few weeks later, on February 4, having reached no conclusions. Johnson
reserved the right to reconvene later if necessary.7
Despite congressional criticism, the success and rapid progress of the U.S. satellite
program allowed NASA to broaden its focus to include manned missions. NASA
announced its first manned initiative, Project Mercury, on December 16, 1958, and engaged
in a highly publicized participant selection process.76 NASA Administrator T. Keith
Glennan introduced the seven Mercury finalists at a press conference in Washington, D.C.,
on April 9, 1959. Glennan stressed that no man would launch until the space capsule
74 Jack Raymond, "Johnson to Open a Broad Inquiry on Arms Dispute," New York
Times, 18 January 1959, 1,34.
75 Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, 13 February 1959, 265.
76 Emme, 104.
proved "as reliable as man can devise." The boisterous press conference lasted ninety
minutes as reporters asked questions ranging from why the men volunteered to which
churches they attended and how often.7 The introduction of the Mercury astronauts
marked the beginning of a new level of American fascination with the space race. The
space program now included faces with names rather than just a series of metal spheres
designated by Roman numerals. Despite Glennan's statements that the actual flight was
scheduled two years away, public anticipation and excitement swelled.
NASA continued to build momentum during the summer of 1959 with two firsts.
On May 28, two monkeys named Able and Baker became the first animals to survive a sub-
orbital space flight." The launch, conducted by the ABMA, was similar to the first one
planned for Project Mercury and reinforced the project's feasibility. Although the Soviets
later countered with two sub-orbital flights in July in which animals survived, the United
States finally attained a technological "scoop" of the Soviet program. The next American
achievement occurred on August 7 when Explorer VI transmitted the first photographs of
earth from space. This was the first satellite project controlled entirely by NASA from
inception and provided a confidence boost to the new agency.79
As the advantage in the space race appeared to swing toward the United States, the
Soviets ended the year with a two-pronged scientific and propaganda coup to rival the first
two Sputniks. Luna 2 struck the surface of the moon within 300 miles of its target point on
77 John W. Finney, "7 Named as Pilots for Space Flights Scheduled in 1961," New York
Times, 10 April 1959, 1,3.
78 Emme, 109.
79 Ibid., 111.
September 12. Before impact, the probe transmitted the most complete data on the moon's
atmosphere and surface to date. The Soviets marked the second anniversary of Sputnik
with the launch of Luna 3, which entered lunar orbit on October 6. Luna 3 photographed
the surface on the far side of the moon. The sophisticated instruments covered a
longitudinal range of 110 degrees, over half of the chosen hemisphere. Soviet scientists
cleverly timed the photographic passes to coincide with lunar sunrise and sunset. This
strategy allowed them to view mountains and other formations in relief as well as measure
height by the length of shadows.0"
By the end of 1959, both space programs could boast of significant and rapid
progress in the previous two years. Despite a slow start, the American space program
quickly advanced to a level of capability that matched, and in some areas exceeded, its
Soviet counterpart. In the area of earth satellites, the United States held a numeric
advantage of twelve to three, with eight remaining in orbit. The only Soviet satellite
remaining in earth orbit was Sputnik III. Both programs launched probes past the moon and
placed them in solar orbit. The Soviet edge remained booster capacity and payload weight,
but American advances in miniaturization technology mitigated that advantage. From a
propaganda perspective, the Soviets boasted an astonishing string of "firsts" dating back to
the first Sputnik that overshadowed significant American accomplishments.81
Politically, Eisenhower and the Republicans remained in a defensive posture
concerning the space race and national defense in general. Eisenhower responded quickly
80 Stoiko, 136-137.
to the Sputniks on the scientific front, but his efforts lacked the media impact of the Soviet
achievements and thus failed to demonstrate his awareness and concern. Leaks of the
Gaither report projected an image of a detached president more concerned with a balanced
budget than national security who apparently could not control his own administration. The
Rockefeller Fund report not only reinforced the Gaither report but also revealed bipartisan
Democrats, most notably Lyndon Johnson, sensed the political value of the space
race and the public perception of a need for action. By virtue of his highly publicized
hearings and prominent legislative leadership resulting in the National Aeronautics and
Space Act, Johnson emerged as a champion of the American space program. Stuart
Symington, another Democratic presidential hopeful, also spoke out repeatedly on the
purported missile gap. In the realm of foreign policy, the space race and its associated
issues, including national prestige and the missile gap, would emerge as factors in the 1960
81 Hanson W. Baldwin, "Russia's Moon Shot Again Demonstrates Its Lead in Space
Race," New York Times, 20 September 1959, Sec. IV, 7.
SPACE-RACE ISSUES IN THE 1960 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
Momentum appeared to favor the Democratic Party heading into the 1960
presidential campaign. The party's resounding success in the 1958 congressional elections
ensured solid control of both congressional houses and many state governments. President
Dwight D. Eisenhower continued to draw criticism over his unwillingness to engage the
Soviet Union in a bid to restore the perceived technological supremacy of the United States
before the launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957. This criticism emanated from the media,
the public and political opponents. In addition, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev
fabricated the myth of an ever-widening ICBM advantage over the United States and used
Soviet space achievements to enhance the myth's plausibility.
A memo from Charles Brewton to Senator Lyndon Johnson discussing Democratic
campaign strategy for 1958 and 1960 identified segregation as the Democratic "stumbling
block" and suggested the Democratic Party "find another issue which is even more potent."
Walter McDougall believed that issue was the Soviet-American space race.82 Walt Rostow,
one of Senator John F. Kennedy's (D, Mass.) foreign policy advisors, recognized that Vice
82 McDougall, 149.
President Richard M. Nixon, the most probable Republican candidate, would be walking a
thin line between supporting the Eisenhower record and offering his own program. The
space race provided a potential pressure point for Nixon and Rostow believed the
Democrats "should exploit" it.83 Space-race issues embraced by the Democratic candidates
were the missile and space gaps and the resulting decline in national prestige.
The missile-gap issue grew out of a deliberate Soviet policy of subterfuge
concerning the relative strategic might of the Soviet Union and the United States. The
space gap, a projected Soviet lead in heavy-payload rockets, was indeed real and persisted
until 1963. It also provided support for the mythical Soviet ICBM advantage. It is
important to note that the missile and space gaps were projections of future numbers of
warheads and payload size, respectively, rather than measures of actual capabilities.84 This
distinction assists in understanding the Soviet ability to bluff the United States and much of
the world for nearly four years.
The Soviet ruse succeeded for two reasons. First, the numerous achievements of the
Soviet space program implied the existence of a solid engineering and technological
foundation necessary for the design and construction of ICBMs. Second, the secrecy
surrounding the totalitarian Soviet regime impeded U.S. efforts to verify Soviet claims.8
The U-2 reconnaissance flights partially penetrated the Soviet enigma, but the resulting
83 Ibid., 219.
84 Levine, 57.
85 Horelick, Strategic Power, 109.
intelligence was insufficient to disprove the Soviet propaganda conclusively.86 Myriad
intelligence estimates also contributed to the uncertainty in the Eisenhower Administration.
With projections of Soviet missile strength published by each branch of the military, the
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the United States Intelligence Board, there existed
no definitive, consistent source of intelligence data on this matter.87
Allegations of a decline in American prestige constantly plagued the Eisenhower
Administration after the launch of Sputnik. Eisenhower personally discounted the
importance of national prestige as it related to the Cold War.88 Members of his
administration, including Vice President Nixon, did not share this view. Nixon realized that
prestige, not military superiority, was "the real motive in space" and the Soviet space
achievements illustrated "a backward country coming up from nowhere" to the developing
nations of the world.89 After the launch of Sputnik the Cold War moved outside of the
traditional arenas of military strength and espionage. Any cultural difference between
communism and democracy fell under scrutiny.90 Stephen P. Depoe observed that in this
climate of total Cold War, "constant comparisons made between American and Soviet
societies also led to a questioning of America's priorities and a search for a clear
86 Roman, 199.
87 Bottome, 178.
88 Callahan, 21.
89 McDougall, 204.
90 Ibid., 227.
articulation of national purpose."91 In the 1960 campaign, the Democrats, particularly
Kennedy, effectively tapped into this prevailing sentiment.
Despite the Republican defeat in the 1958 congressional elections, the Democrats
still respected Eisenhower's popularity with the American people. Indeed, Kennedy
privately postulated that Eisenhower would have beaten any Democrat in 1960 had he been
eligible to run for a third term.92 With Eisenhower out of the picture, the race attracted
many hopefuls from the Democratic Party. Four senators officially announced their
candidacy: Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, Kennedy, Stuart Symington, and Lyndon
Johnson. Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon never announced his candidacy but entered
three primary races. After losing in all of them, including the primary of his home state,
Morse dropped out of the race on May 21, 1960. Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic
candidate in 1952 and 1956, never publicly declared his candidacy but privately hoped to be
drafted at the nominating convention. Several others were touted as "favorite son"
candidates, including Senator George Smathers of Florida, Governor Pat Brown of
California, and Governor Mennen Williams of Michigan.
Hubert Humphrey announced his candidacy on December 30, 1959, the first
candidate from either party to do so. He planned a campaign focused on foreign policy and
national security and exclaimed, "We can no longer tolerate a government that reacts
instead of taking the initiative. We cannot afford to have an administration that spends all
91 Stephen P. Depoe, "Space and the 1960 Presidential Campaign: Kennedy, Nixon, and
'Public Time'," Western Journal of Speech Communication 55 (Spring 1991): 219.
92 Theodore C. Sorenson, Kennedy (New York: Harper and Row, 1965), 183.
of its time repairing damage instead of building solid, long term programs."93 During a trip
to the Soviet Union in the fall of 1958, he gained publicity by virtue of an eight-hour visit
with Premier Khrushchev, the longest audience granted an American to date.94 In his
memoirs, Humphrey mentioned Khrushchev's complaints about the United States
discussing space issues in the United Nations rather than directly with the Soviet Union.
Humphrey recalled Khrushchev pointedly stating, "'So now... the United States discusses
outer space with Guatemala-but Guatemala does not seem to be too advanced in space
During his formal announcement on January 2, 1960, John F. Kennedy enumerated
several issues that would form the foundation of his campaign. The list included: ending the
arms race, "where Soviet gains already threaten our very existence"; rebuilding "the stature
of American science and education"; and providing "direction to our traditional moral
purpose, awakening every American to the dangers and opportunities that confront us."96
Kennedy asserted he would, if necessary, "call for higher taxes, deficit spending, reshuffling
of available appropriations or a combination of these methods to close the 'missile gap'
93 Walter Trohan, "Humphrey Bids on Nomination for President," Chicago Tribune, 31
December 1959, Pt. I, 7.
94 Carl Solberg, Hubert Humphrey: A Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and
Company, 1984), 190.
95 Hubert H. Humphrey, The Education of a Public Man: My Life and Politics, ed.
Norman Sherman (New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1976), 200.
96 Theodore C. Sorenson, ed., "Let the Word Go Forth": The Speeches, Statements, and
Writings of John F. Kennedy, 1947 to 1963 (New York: Delacorte Press, 1988), 89.
which he charged the Eisenhower Administration will leave to its successor."97 Theodore
C. Sorenson, a prominent member of Kennedy's campaign staff, summarized the theme of
the campaign as exhorting voters to "get the country moving again." He explained,
"Kennedy stressed the historical negativism of the Republican Party and, never criticizing
Eisenhower by name, deplored the greater Russian progress in space, the decline in U.S.
prestige abroad, and the lag in America's appeal to the developing world."98
Symington and Johnson chose to forego the primary elections and take their chances
at the nominating convention in July. Both camps anticipated an enervating primary
struggle between Kennedy and Humphrey that would produce no clear favorite heading into
the convention. Symington inaccurately predicted a need for a compromise candidate in the
wake of the primaries and planned to present himself as the unifier of his party. Two
factors contributed to the failure of his candidacy: Kennedy's success in the primaries and a
lack of political support outside of his home state of Missouri. By avoiding the primary
elections, Symington lost an opportunity to expand his appeal and win delegates. He
possessed no contingency plan when Kennedy emerged as the strong favorite. He officially
joined the race on March 24, 1960, but played a minor role in the campaign.99
On the other hand, Johnson's strategy appeared sound at the outset. He possessed
true political power as Senate majority leader, and enjoyed the added advantage of House
97 Robert Hartmann, "Kennedy Enters Race, Rules Out Second Spot," Los Angeles
Times, 3 January 1960, Pt. I, 1.
98 Theodore C. Sorenson, "Election of 1960," in The Coming to Power: Critical
Presidential Elections in American History, ed. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (New York,
Chelsea House Publishers, 1972), 452.
99 White, 38-42.
speaker Sam Rayburn's (D, Tex.) support. Johnson and Rayburn believed that they held
enough political markers from years of congressional bartering to secure the nomination for
Johnson after Kennedy and Humphrey took each other out of contention. Kennedy's
success in the primaries nullified Johnson's strategy but, unlike Symington, Johnson waged
a spirited campaign from July 5, 1960, the date of his formal announcement of candidacy,
until he agreed to serve as Kennedy's running mate.'00
In contrast, the Republican field was very narrow. Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller
of New York stated on December 26, 1959, that he would not be a candidate for the
Republican ticket and thus virtually assured Vice President Nixon the Republican
nomination. Rockefeller, a former special assistant to Eisenhower and an early proponent
of U.S. participation in the IGY satellite effort, displayed no reluctance to criticize
Eisenhower after leaving the administration. Indeed, publication of a national defense study
conducted under the auspices of the Rockefeller Fund further weakened Eisenhower's
position following the Sputnik launches. In his withdrawal announcement he stated, "For
such a time as this calls for a profound and continuous act of national self-examination. I
shall contribute all I can to this political act. I shall speak with full freedom and vigor on
these issues that confront our nation and the world."101
Nixon appeared to be the front-runner as the campaign year began. William H.
Flanigan and Nancy H. Zingale asserted, "In 1960 Nixon was more favorably perceived in
100 Ibid., 43-44.
101 "Rockefeller Text on Withdrawal," Los Angeles Times, 27 December 1959, Pt. I, 13.
personal terms than John Kennedy; [and] his personal image rivaled Eisenhower's."102
Although Eisenhower harbored some reservations about Nixon's intense political ambitions
and publicly voiced little support for his vice president's nomination, he privately
recognized Nixon as his most suitable successor.103 Nixon also acquired valuable exposure
during his highly publicized trips to South America in 1958 and the Soviet Union in 1959.
Like Humphrey, Nixon spent several hours with Khrushchev. Some of their dialogue was
captured on tape during the opening of the American Exhibition in Moscow. During the
event, known as the "kitchen debate," Nixon conceded that the Soviets possessed an edge in
rocketry but countered that the United States led in other areas, citing color television as an
example.'04 Kennedy later used this statement against Nixon during their televised debates.
The Democrats kicked off their campaign on January 23, 1960, with a fundraiser in
Washington, D.C. Harry S. Truman, the last Democrat to successfully campaign for
president, set the tone for the next eleven months, stating, "Under this administration we
have surrendered an important advantage, including the embarrassing psychological
advantage, to the Soviet Union." He then exclaimed, "Russia continues to parade her
achievements before the world-from the Sputnik, to the rocket on the moon, to a 7,762-
mile missile into the Pacific, where they have no business to be at all." Humphrey and
Kennedy railed against alleged lethargy under Eisenhower. Humphrey characterized the
102 William H. Flanigan and Nancy H. Zingale, Political Behavior of the American
Electorate, 9t ed. (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press, 1998), 166.
103 Stephen E. Ambrose, Nixon: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962 (New York:
Touchstone, 1987), 452-455.
104 Ibid., 523.
motto of the current regime as "No go, go slow, not now, veto-an administration which
has said nay to every new idea." Kennedy declared, "I cannot believe that the voters of this
country will accept four more years of the same tired policies-and four more years of
dwindling prestige abroad [and] dwindling security at home."''0
Nixon also gave foreign policy a high priority from the beginning of his campaign.
During an address to the California Newspaper Publishers Association in Los Angeles on
February 6, he touted U.S. security and survival as the "overriding issue" of the campaign
and described the United States as the "strongest nation in the world militarily." In a direct
response to Democratic criticism, Nixon asserted that military strength "has nothing to do
with whether this nation is lagging behind in development of missiles or other armaments."
He frankly stated, "The United States has the retaliatory power to defeat any aggressor."106
Criticism of American standing in the space and missile race continued in the
election year. During testimony before the House Committee on Science and Astronautics
on February 5, Air Force Lt. Gen. Bernard A. Schriever claimed that the Soviet Union
would remain ahead of the United States at least until 1961. Schriever joined the SAC
commander, Maj. Gen. Thomas S. Power, in criticizing the decisions made by his
commander-in-chief during the previous two years.'07 In a February 17, 1960, press
conference Eisenhower reacted sharply to a reporter who asked about congressional
105 Don Shannon, "Democrats Turn Fire on Nixon," Los Angeles Times, 24 January
1960, Pt. I, 1, 25.
106 "Survival Big U.S. Issue, Nixon Says," Los Angeles Times, 7 February 1960, Pt. I, 1.
107 "General Predicts Russ Missile Lead by 1961," Los Angeles Times, 6 February
1960, Pt. I, 1.
allegations that his administration misrepresented the true status of national defense. He
condemned the charges as "despicable" and asserted, "Our defense is not only strong. It is
awesome and it is respected elsewhere.""'
During a televised speech four days later to discuss his upcoming tour of Latin
America, Eisenhower incorporated a section on U.S. defense posture. He briefly itemized
the major weapon systems and proclaimed, "We have forged a trustworthy shield of
peace-an indestructible force of incalculable power, ample for today and constantly
developing to meet the needs of tomorrow." He also reminded detractors that the current
missile program evolved to its current state from a "standing start" in merely five years.
Finally, he conveyed reassurance by stating, "Today, in the presence of continuous threat,
all of us can stand resolute and unafraid--confident of America's might as an anchor of free
American citizens continued to receive mixed messages from their president,
congressmen, and the media. Pollster Samuel Lubell conducted a random survey of citizens
in eleven cities and four farm counties across the country to assess the general mood
concerning national defense. He reported that "well over half" of those surveyed believed
the Soviet Union enjoyed a lead in missiles and rockets. He heard statements such as "I
don't know what to believe" and "You get confused reading one thing one day and
something else the next day." While no one felt Eisenhower intentionally distorted the
truth, a sense of skepticism over military strength emerged. Lubell encountered questions
108 Laurence Burd, "Ike Denounces Arms Critics," Chicago Tribune, 18 February 1960,
Pt. I, 1.
like, "If all those generals in Washington can't agree, how should I know where we stand?"
and "Does anyone really know what the Russians have?" He concluded that Americans had
confidence in Eisenhower but harbored doubts about national defense because of conflicting
views from other government officials.11
Since Nixon ran unopposed and Johnson and Symington chose to refrain, activity in
the primary elections centered on Kennedy and Humphrey. After winning the New
Hampshire primary unopposed on March 8, Kennedy squared off against Humphrey in
Wisconsin. Kennedy won in Wisconsin on April 5, but it proved a mixed blessing.
Kennedy carried six of the ten districts, but only received 56 percent of the total votes.
Although Humphrey stated before the primary that he would withdraw from the presidential
race if he did not carry Wisconsin, he gained confidence after his strong showing and chose
to continue with earlier plans to participate in West Virginia's primary.'"I
As the candidates arrived in West Virginia momentum appeared to favor
Humphrey, despite his earlier loss. Poverty afflicted much of the population, only 5 percent
of whom were Catholic. These conditions appeared tailor-made for the liberal, Protestant
senator from Minnesota, who was experiencing financial problems of his own at that point.
Kennedy seemed out of place as he arrived in his private jet.12 However, Kennedy related
surprisingly well to the voters, treating them with respect and displaying genuine interest
109 "Text of Report by Eisenhower," Los Angeles Times, 22 February 1960, Pt. IIA, 4.
110 Samuel Lubell, "Sense of Fear Grows Over U.S. Defenses," Los Angeles Times, 22
February 1960, Part I, 20.
'1 Sorenson, Kennedy, 137-138.
112 Ibid., 100.
and concern for their plight. The result was a decisive victory for Kennedy. Garnering 61
percent of the total votes and carrying forty-eight out of fifty-five counties, Kennedy finally
had the broad endorsement for which he had hoped in Wisconsin. Humphrey dejectedly
withdrew from the race on May 11.113
Protestant West Virginia provided the first real test of the effect of Kennedy's
religion on voters. Kennedy and his staff decided that he would not raise the topic, but if
given the opportunity he would confront rather than avoid it. The Episcopal Bishop of
West Virginia opened the door when he publicly announced that he was against electing a
Catholic president. Kennedy's response was swift and direct. He asserted that if his
religion was just cause to eliminate him from contention for the presidency, then he
"shouldn't have served in the House, I shouldn't now be serving in the Senate, and I
shouldn't have been accepted by the United States Navy."114 The Kennedy team effectively
presented the choice as tolerance versus bigotry rather than one of denomination and the
issue subsided until the general election.
Humphrey's withdrawal was significant for Symington, too. It effectively removed
him from contention for the Democratic nomination because his strategy hinged on a
deadlock at the convention. He and his staff believed the deadlock would materialize after
Kennedy and Humphrey weakened each other through close primary contests. With
Humphrey eliminated, Kennedy emerged as the strong favorite. Symington never officially
113 Ibid., 146.
114 Ibid., 142-144.
withdrew from the race but decreased his activity to a minimum.15 After the West Virginia
primary, only Johnson remained as a legitimate challenger to Kennedy.
On May 1, 1960, the Soviet Union shot down a U-2 reconnaissance plane.
Eisenhower, reluctant to admit the existence of spy planes to the American people,
authorized an ill-advised cover-up that described the plane as a NASA aircraft engaged in
high-altitude weather research. The cover-up unraveled on May 7 when Khrushchev
announced that the pilot, Francis Gary Powers, remained in custody in Moscow.116 The
ensuing embarrassment resounded throughout the Republican Party as Democrats pointed
to the incident as more proof that the Eisenhower Administration lacked control over
foreign affairs. Nixon appeared guilty by association. Stephen E. Ambrose stated:
The best Nixon could do was to stress how valuable the U-2 flights had been-the
photographs from the spy missions had shown that the Democratic charges about a
'missile gap' were false-but he was denied even that claim, because Eisenhower
and the CIA remained secretive about the flights and would not release the
America's image abroad also suffered. The Soviet-American summit in Paris unraveled
after the first session and Eisenhower canceled subsequent visits to Japan and the Soviet
Union.118 Theodore H. White asserted, "There was no question that America ... requires
constant and careful espionage to protect its security. [But] American spokesmen had ...
"1 White, 126.
116 Ambrose, Eisenhower, 508-510.
117 Ambrose, Nixon, 549.
118 Sorenson, Kennedy, 216.
lied to the world and their own people, and then compounded the lies with contradiction,
uncertainty and confusion."11
Another consequence of the U-2 incident was Khrushchev's realization that the
"missile gap" ruse could no longer work because the United States possessed the
technology to disprove his claims. He curtailed future statements comparing the arsenals of
the superpowers.120 However, the Republicans missed an opportunity to nullify a
significant element of the Democratic campaign strategy on the eve of the nominating
conventions. Eisenhower's preoccupation with maintaining secrecy and personal distance
from the U-2 program prevented his administration from exposing the fallacy of the missile
gap. The Democratic congressional leadership likely learned of the intelligence gathered by
the U-2 program during the closed-door hearings following the incident, yet Kennedy and
Symington continued to assert that the missile gap existed.121 Without Eisenhower's
consent to refute the allegations publicly with the U-2 data, Nixon's hands remained tied on
As the national conventions approached, Johnson stood as the only obstacle
between Kennedy and the Democratic nomination. He announced his candidacy on July 5,
less than a week before the convention. In reference to his delay in announcing, Johnson
explained, "Those who have engaged in active campaigns have missed hundreds of [Senate]
votes. This I could not do-for my country or my party. Someone has to tend the store."
119 White, 117.
120 Horelick, Strategic Power, 72.
121 McDougall, 220.
Emphasizing the need for experience in the next president, he stated, "We must have in our
national leadership a man able to stand against the challenge of the Communist world.
There will be little time to learn the job."122 Johnson offered himself as the only candidate
with sufficient experience to ensure success in the Cold War.
The Democrats held their national convention in Los Angeles between July 11 and
July 15. The platform adopted at the convention revived the "gap" accusations used so
effectively in the 1958 elections. The national defense plank charged that the Republicans
admitted to lagging behind the Soviets in both ICBM development and the space race with
"no plans to catch up ... as a result, our military position today is measured in terms of
gaps-missile gap, space gap, limited-war gap."'23 The science plank leveled criticism
toward the Republican space program, citing a lack of urgency which "allowed communists
to hit the moon first, and to launch substantially greater payloads."'24 Clearly, the space
race remained a viable issue to the Democratic Party.
Momentum accumulated in the primaries swept Kennedy to a first ballot
nomination with 806 delegates, nearly doubling the total of Johnson, his closest
challenger.125 Despite previous statements of "refusing to trade a vote for a gavel," Johnson
surprised many observers, analysts, and commentators when he accepted the second slot on
the ticket. Sorenson summarized the reasons Johnson appealed to Kennedy and his staff:
122 Don Shannon, "Sen. Johnson Formally Enters Race, Hits at Kennedy's Youth," Los
Angeles Times, 6 July 1960, Pt. I, 1, 11.
123 Donald Bruce Johnson and Kirk H. Porter, comp., National Party Platforms, 1840-
1972 (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1973), 574-575.
124 Ibid., 594.
"[Johnson] had strong voter appeal in areas where Kennedy had little or none. He was a
Protestant with a capital P. His assistance with a Kennedy Congress would be
indispensable. Above all, Kennedy respected him and knew he could work with him.
Lyndon Johnson was, in his opinion, the next best qualified man to be president."'26
Kennedy introduced a program he called the New Frontier in his acceptance speech
on July 15. The program deviated from predecessors such as Woodrow Wilson's New
Freedom and Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. Those programs, Kennedy noted,
contained "a set of promises," whereas the New Frontier presented "a set of challenges."
He further explained, "It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I
intend to ask of them. It appeals to their pride, not their pocketbook-it holds out the
promise of more sacrifices instead of more security." The nominee prodded the delegates
and television audience with questions concerning national character and fortitude, asking,
"Have we the nerve and the will? Can we carry through in an age where we will witness
not only new breakthroughs in weapons of destruction but also a race for the mastery of...
the far sides of space and the inside of men's minds? Are we up to the task-are we equal
to the challenge?"127
In a thinly veiled reference to the Eisenhower Administration, he stated, "It would
be easier to shrink back from the [new] frontier, to look to the safe mediocrity of the past, to
be lulled by good intentions and high rhetoric-and those who prefer that course should not
125 White, 169.
126 Sorenson, Kennedy, 163.
127 Sorenson, "Let the Word Go Forth," 100-101.
cast their votes for me, regardless of party."28 Charges of Republican lethargy emanated
from Johnson's acceptance speech, as well. He declared, "A government out of touch with
the world is a government sure to be out of touch with its own people. A government
continually caught by surprise abroad is a government asleep at the switch-a government
napping through its responsibilities."'29
Ten days later, in Chicago, the Republican national convention opened. The
adopted party platform, based in part on a report from the private Committee on Program
and Progress titled Decisions for a Better America, contained no direct response to the
Democratic criticisms of gaps and a sluggish space program. The foreign policy plank
stressed the peaceful use of space and proposed that the United Nations establish laws to
maintain such a peace. The science and technology plank reiterated the peace in space goal
and defined the federal government's role in scientific research, including "applied research
in fields of prime national concern such as ... exploration and use of space.""'3
Like Kennedy, Nixon also won on the first ballot, only ten votes short of a
unanimous nomination. He chose Henry Cabot Lodge, U.S. Ambassador to the United
Nations, as his running mate. Ironically, Lodge lost to Kennedy in his 1952 bid for re-
election as senator from Massachusetts. Stephen E. Ambrose noted that Lodge appealed to
all factions of the Republican Party and made up for a lack of pugnacity with experience
128 Ibid., 101.
129 "Text of Johnson's Coliseum Speech," Los Angeles Times, 16 July 1960, Pt. I, 7.
130 Johnson, 606.
and a consistent reputation of opposing communism. Furthermore, Nixon was no stranger
to aggressive campaigning and could handle himself if the campaign turned rough.'3
Although the Republican platform verbiage avoided direct reference to the
Democratic platform adopted two weeks earlier, Nixon responded to Kennedy's accusations
in his acceptance speech. He denounced Kennedy's frank statements about America
suffering a tarnished prestige and emphatically stated:
I say when the Communists are running us down abroad, it is time to speak up for
America at home. Let us recognize that America has its weaknesses. But let us also
recognize this: while it is dangerous to see nothing wrong in America, it is just as
wrong to refuse to recognize what is right about America.
Nixon also subtly distanced himself from Eisenhower by admitting to a race scenario with
the Soviet Union, something Eisenhower never acknowledged publicly or privately. Nixon
assured, "We are ahead now, but the only way to stay ahead in a race is to move ahead; and
the next president will make decisions which will determine whether we win or whether we
lose this race."132
After the nominating conventions, the nominees formulated strategies for the
general campaign. Hoping to benefit from Eisenhower's popularity while also presenting
himself as an individual with a record, Nixon's basic campaign theme blended his acquired
experience with the "Peace and Prosperity" created by the Eisenhower Administration.133
Nixon planned to focus on Kennedy's lack of training and practical knowledge regarding
foreign policy. In Nixon's mind, continued vigilance and success in the Cold War required
131 Ambrose, Nixon, 554.
132 Richard M. Nixon, Six Crises (New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1962),
a president with knowledge and the courage to confront the Soviet Union when necessary.
Consequently, four of the seven subjects that comprised his basic stump speech related to
candidate experience or foreign policy.134
Kennedy said that his campaign was "founded on a single assumption, the
assumption that the American people are tired of drift in our national course ... And that
they are ready to move again."135 Kennedy hoped to make the choice between two views of
the future, "the comfortable and the concerned", rather than two men.136 Anticipating
attacks on his relative inexperience and knowing Nixon would capitalize on his affiliation
with Eisenhower, Kennedy formulated a counter-attack. He emphasized his youth as a
source of energy and motion in stark contrast to the lethargy and stodginess of the
Republican regime.'37 He also used wit to downplay Nixon's experience. For example,
referring to Nixon's famous confrontation with Khrushchev in Moscow, Kennedy quipped,
"Mr. Nixon may be very experienced in kitchen debates, but so are a great many other
married men I know."'38
One facet of Kennedy's campaign strategy used the space race to illustrate the need
for new leadership. Stephen P. Depoe observed, "For Kennedy, space provided an
133 Ibid., 267.
134 Bernard C. Kissel, "Richard M. Nixon: Definition of an Image," Quarterly Journal of
Speech 46 (1960): 358-360.
135 Stanley Kelley, Jr., "The Presidential Campaign," in The Presidential Election and
Transition, 1960-1961, ed. Paul T. David (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution,
136 Sorenson, Kennedy, 184.
137 Kelley, 65, 68.
138 Sorenson, Kennedy, 183.
opportunity to apply his 'New Frontier' theme to a specific issue. To Kennedy, the space
issue was qualitatively different than other issues in the campaign because space was the
next pivotal battleground in the Cold War." Yet, historically, the space race seemed to draw
attention only after a new launch from either superpower and then recede. Kennedy's
challenge was to bring the issue to the fore and keep it there for the duration of the
campaign.139 Thus, he sought to generate public fear and concern over the missile and space
gaps and the concomitant loss of national prestige. He believed that the balance of power
would permanently shift to Moscow if the United States grew complacent and therefore
perpetuated the missile gap myth as both a motivational and political tool.140
Shortly after the nominating conventions, Life magazine provided both candidates
the chance to participate in an ongoing series of essays discussing America's national
purpose. Kennedy's essay, published in the August 22, 1960 issue, encapsulated his theme
of America's need for new, vigorous leadership and illustrated his belief that sustained
success required continuous sacrifice. He defined national purpose as encompassing "the
combined purposefulness of each of us when we are at our moral best: striving, risking,
choosing, making decisions, engaging in a pursuit of happiness that is strenuous, heroic,
exciting and exalted" (Kennedy's italics). He criticized the Eisenhower Administration for
allowing America to grow soft in its prosperity and pointedly stated that space exploration
was an endeavor the United States "ought to be doing anyway, for its own sake, whether
139 Depoe, 220-221.
140 Michael R. Meaghar, "'In an Atmosphere of National Peril': The Development of
John F. Kennedy's World View," Presidential Studies Quarterly 27 (Summer 1997): 467-
competition exists or not." Kennedy observed, "We should congratulate ourselves not for
our country's past glories and present accumulations but for our opportunities for further
toil and risk. Rather than take satisfaction in goals already reached, we should be contrite
about the goals unreached."'41
In Nixon's essay, printed a week later, he noted that previous contributions to the
series criticized the level of American response to communism and countered that "never
has the American purpose been more clear." He emphasized the role of the individual in a
democratic society, a society where "institutions project outward from people, not
downward to people" and "the individual initiates, society imitates." Nixon proclaimed, "It
is my firm belief that it is America's national purpose to extend the goals of the Preamble of
our Constitution to our relations with all men." After listing these goals, he observed, "Four
of these six goals communism purports to offer mankind. That is why their cause has wide
appeal. In place of two of them, justice and liberty, they demand a social discipline
enforced by tyrannical state power."142
Kennedy's constant questioning of America's defense posture finally elicited a
response from Eisenhower. According to Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower arranged a
briefing from Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles for Kennedy and Johnson after
the nominating conventions in an attempt to "convince Kennedy to tone down his criticism
of defense policy." When Kennedy queried Dulles on the U.S. position in the missile race,
Dulles referred him to the Department of Defense as the "competent authority on this
141 John F. Kennedy, "We must climb to the hilltop." Life, 22 August 1960, 70B-77.
142 Richard M. Nixon, "Our resolve remains strong." Life, 29 August 1960, 87-94.
question." Ambrose concluded, "That was hardly a satisfactory answer, and Kennedy felt
free to continue to speak of a 'missile gap."''43
Although the campaign officially started on September 1, Nixon spent August 29
through September 9 in the hospital recovering from a debilitating knee infection. He
remained engaged in the campaign during this time by refining his itinerary, speaking to the
press, and issuing a position paper on September 7 describing his science program. The
paper discussed what Nixon characterized as a "scientific revolution" and outlined
legislation he planned to introduce if elected. It also acknowledged that the United States,
despite holding an overall lead in science, trailed the Soviet Union in rocket thrust
technology. It declared the futility of avoiding "the fact that we are confronted with a
serious challenge in some phases of science" but emphasized that the Soviets started their
research immediately after World War II "while we had no [rocket] program worthy of the
name until 1952."144
While Nixon recuperated, Kennedy took his message of Republican lethargy to the
voters. As Kennedy refined his basic message, Nixon's frustration grew. Nixon recalled,
"During those first two weeks, Kennedy concentrated on building up what I characterized
as a 'poor mouth' image of America-just barely limping along in second place behind the
dynamic Soviets, with the gap widening day by day."'45 Indeed, Kennedy focused heavily
on this theme. At times he even discarded a prepared speech on a different topic in order to
143 Ambrose, Eisenhower, 523.
144 "Nixon Urges New U.S. Research Plan," Los Angeles Times, 8 September 1960, Pt.
145 Nixon, Six Crises, 336.
discuss America's decline from first to second place. For example, in Portland, Oregon, on
September 7 he said, "There [is] no disputing the fact that our prestige, our stature and, thus,
our influence have all declined abroad. To rebuild American prestige now will not be easy.
It cannot be done overnight by a new administration."146
Eager to make up for the time he lost in the hospital, Nixon began his campaign on
September 12 by flying over 2,700 miles from Baltimore to San Francisco, stopping at
Indianapolis and Dallas on the way. In his speech in San Francisco he rebuked critics of
Eisenhower for practicing "politics of despair" and vowed, "The United States is the
strongest nation in the world economically, militarily, and morally, and we are going to stay
that way."'47 Five days later in St. Paul, Minnesota his frustration came to the surface as he
said, "I think it is time that we be done with the practice of cutting the pride and support of
America by endlessly forecasting doom and prating gloom." He concluded, "I think we
should stop this continual insisting that America is poorly defended against a powerful and
deadly foe. It is dangerous as well as dead wrong."'48
The vice presidential candidates also addressed the prestige issue. During his
campaign kickoff in Boston on September 8, Johnson described "the deterioration of this
nation's position in the world" as the "real issue" in the campaign and depicted the
Republican Party as "a symbol of inertia and indifference." Johnson argued, "Under no
146 "Kennedy Maps Plan for U.S. Leadership," Chicago Tribune, 8 September 1960, Pt.
147 Willard Edwards, "Nixon Kicks Off Campaign," Chicago Tribune, 13 September
1960, Pt. I, 1,8.
148 Willard Edwards, "Nixon Blasts Doom Gloom Talk of Rival," Chicago Tribune,
18 September 1960, Pt. I, 6.
single administration in American history has the position of our nation in the world
declined so far and so fast as it has under [Eisenhower]" and urged voters to support the
Democratic ticket in order to restore "vitality and decisiveness" to government.149 Lodge
called on his UN experience to refute the Democratic charges, declaring, "American
prestige in the United Nations is higher than that of Russia or any other country." Citing as
an example the support of the Afro-Asian bloc for the U.S. request of investigation into the
Russian shooting of an American bomber, he exclaimed, "This backing is not the symptom
of a country that lacks prestige."150
A hallmark of the 1960 campaign was the four televised debates, which ushered in
the era of televised campaigns in a dramatic way. By the summer of 1960, average daily
use of televisions ranged between four and five hours. Of all American families, 88 percent
owned one, which translated to approximately forty million homes.'51 Each candidate felt
confident in his skills as a debater and saw an opportunity for increased exposure. In one
hour, the candidates could potentially reach more voters than in all of their campaign stops
The first debate took place in Chicago on September 26. Despite an agreement to
focus on domestic issues, both candidates mentioned foreign policy in their opening
statements. As the first to speak, Kennedy set the precedent for straying from the evening's
149 "G.O.P. Losing U.S. Prestige, Johnson Says," Chicago Tribune, 9 September 1960,
Pt. I, 9.
150 "Lodge Defends Ike's Handling of Cold War," Chicago Tribune, 19 September
1960, Pt. I, 9.
151 White, 279-280.
topic. He said, "We discuss tonight domestic issues, but I would not want... any
implication to be given that this does not involve directly our struggle with Mr. Khrushchev
for survival." In an obvious reference to his charges of dwindling national prestige, he
stated, "I want people in Latin America and Africa and Asia to start to look to America; to
see how we're doing things; to wonder what the president of the United States is doing; and
not to look at Khrushchev, or look at the Chinese Communists." He kept the foreign policy
theme alive in the conclusion of his opening statement: "Can freedom be maintained under
the most severe ... attack it has ever known? I think it can be. And I think in the final
analysis it depends upon what we do here. I think it's time America started moving
Nixon recalled his reaction to Kennedy's opening statement: "I realized that I had
heard a very shrewd, carefully calculated appeal, with subtle emotional overtones, that
would have great impact on a television audience."154 In an attempt to mitigate that impact,
Nixon agreed with Kennedy on several points. He said, "The things that Senator Kennedy
has said many of us can agree with. There is no question but that we cannot discuss our
internal affairs in the United States without recognizing that they have a tremendous bearing
on our national position." He again publicly admitted the United States was engaged in a
"deadly competition" with the Soviet Union and China, reaffirming his difference with
152 Kelley, 73.
153 Theodore Clevenger, Jr., Donald W. Parson, and Jerome B. Polisky, "The Problem of
Textual Accuracy," in The Great Debates: Background, Perspective, Effects, ed. Sidney
Kraus (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1962: reprint, Gloucester, Mass.:
Peter Smith, 1968), 348-350.
154 Nixon, Six Crises, 338-339.
Eisenhower on that point. He continued, "But when you're in a race, the only way to stay
ahead is to move ahead. And I subscribe completely to the spirit that Senator Kennedy has
expressed tonight, the spirit that the United States should move ahead." At this point,
Nixon described the differences between the candidates and returned the focus to domestic
Max Lerner assessed the impact of the first debate on the campaign as marking a
subtle shift in favor of Kennedy. He observed that Kennedy "carried himself with an
assurance that left no doubts about the question of maturity and experience between the two
men" and that "Overnight [Kennedy] found he had become something of a hero." Lerner
also captured the spirit of debate proponents throughout the country, stating, "It isn't
enough to say virtuous things in a party platform. You must see your man in action,
bringing the figures and arguments to life under dramatic stress."156
Encouraged by his strong showing in the first debate, Kennedy intensified his
criticism of the Republican regime. In a speech in Syracuse, N.Y., on September 28,
Kennedy embellished a comment from his opening statement from the debate: "I am very
tired of reading every morning what Mr. Khrushchev is doing, or what Castro is doing. I
want to read what the President of the United States is doing.""' This statement drew fire
from both Nixon and Lodge. Nixon proclaimed that his opponent incurred "a responsibility
155 Clevenger, 350-351.
156 Max Lerner, "Nixon Embraces All Sides of the Issues," Los Angeles Times, 7
October 1960, Pt. III, 4.
157 Joseph Hearst, "Talking Tough isn't Enough, Kennedy Says," Chicago Tribune, 29
September 1960, Pt. I, 7.
to the nation, as well as to his party, not to distort the image of America." He further
advised Kennedy to "start reading the newspapers about what President Eisenhower is
doing before he voices criticism."" Lodge admonished, "Sen. Kennedy apparently does
not understand that the important thing is to gain and hold respect, and not the largest
volume of publicity."'59
Interest in the space race emerged again on October 3, 1960, when Missiles and
Rockets, an aerospace trade journal, published an open letter to both candidates requesting a
firm statement of their respective space policies. The letter alleged, "The public has been
lulled by the ambiguities of the Eisenhower Administration into believing that space really
has no strategic importance. It is merely a scientific curiosity, an area to be explored for
exploration's sake." The magazine's editors proposed a nine-point defense and space plan
that included as the first three items: formal recognition that the United States and the
Soviet Union were engaged in a strategic space race; an expedited space program resulting
in a manned space platform in 1965, a manned lunar landing in 1968, and a reusable space
vehicle by 1969; and military involvement in the space program. The letter concluded, "We
ask that you reply to this open letter, stating your views and making your stand quite
158 "Kennedy's 'Distortion' Tactics Hit by Nixon," Los Angeles Times, 1 October 1960,
Pt. I, 1.
159 "World Not in Publicity Contest, Lodge Asserts," Los Angeles Times, 3 October
1960, Pt. I, 2.
160 "A Modest Proposal for Survival: An Open Letter to Richard Nixon and John
Kennedy," Missiles and Rockets, 3 October 1960, 10-11.
Kennedy's reply began with an affirmation that the proposed plan coincided in spirit
with the Democratic Party platform and his personal beliefs. He agreed wholeheartedly
with the first point, as the space race featured integrally in his campaign. He emphatically
declared, "We are in a strategic space race with the Russians, and we have been losing. If
the Soviets control space they can control earth, as in past centuries the nation that
controlled the seas dominated the continents. To insure peace and freedom, we must be
first." For the second point, he noted that milestone dates within the space program must be
"elastic." Rather than directly opposing military involvement in the space program,
Kennedy simply stated that the United Nations must be involved in maintaining the
freedom of space.161
Nixon's reply also acknowledged the existence of a space race and recapped the
score between the superpowers to date. He declared, "In short, the United States is not
losing the space race or any other race with the Soviet Union. From a standing start in
1953, we have forged ahead to overcome an 8-year Russian lead. And we will continue to
maintain a clear cut lead in the race for space." As the incumbent vice president, Nixon had
the advantage of responding to the proposed dates in point two with dates already published
by NASA. This detailed answer contrasted sharply with Kennedy's vague comment about
"elastic" dates. Nixon again deviated somewhat from the party line established by
161 John F. Kennedy, "If the Soviets Control Space ... They Can Control the Earth,"
Missiles and Rockets, 10 October 1960, 12.
Eisenhower and conceded that the military should have a role in the space program to
"defend 'freedom of space.'"162
Washington, D.C. hosted the second debate on October 7. Unlike the first debate,
the candidates agreed to field questions on any topic. Of the thirteen questions posed by the
panelists, eight addressed foreign affairs and four included some mention of national
prestige. In one case, Edward P. Morgan of ABC challenged Nixon on his optimistic stance
concerning America's performance in the Cold War. Morgan asked, "Can you square that
[position] with a considerable mass of bipartisan reports and studies, including one
prominently participated in by Governor Rockefeller, which almost unanimously conclude
that we are not doing nearly so well as we should?" Nixon stated:
I think it's time that we nail a few of these distortions about the United States that
have been put out. First of all, we hear that our prestige is at an all-time low.
Senator Kennedy has been hitting that point over and over again. I would suggest
that after Premier Khrushchev's performance in the United Nations, compared with
President Eisenhower's eloquent speech, that at the present time Communist
prestige is at an all-time-low and American prestige is at an all-time-high.163
Kennedy responded, "The Rockefeller Brothers report, the Gaither Report, various reports
of Congressional committees all indicate that the relative strength of the United States both
militarily, politically, psychologically, and scientifically and industrially has deteriorated in
the last eight years and we should know it."'64
Assessing the second debate, the editors of the Chicago Tribune deemed it a "vast
improvement" over the first event and observed that distinctions between the candidates
162 Richard M. Nixon, "Military has Mission to 'Defend' Space," Missiles and Rockets,
31 October 1960, 10.
163 Clevenger, 375-376.
finally appeared. Describing the Democratic nominee's performance, they stated, "Mr.
Kennedy continued his drumfire of fault finding, his accusations of loss of national prestige,
his foreboding of military decline, and his fears of a collapsing economy." They evaluated
Nixon as "confident, hopeful, and unafraid" and concluded that he "does not believe that
America's military force is fading."'65
The editors of the Los Angeles Times also felt that differences on issues emerged
with greater clarity. They characterized the core difference between Nixon and Kennedy as
one of philosophy, stating, "It may be unfair to charge Kennedy with loving innovation for
its own sake; but sometimes he proposes a change in style not because the coat in use is
wearing out or is unbecoming but because he is trying to sell a new one." In support of
Nixon, they said, "He believes that we improve on what we have; we do not discard it;
national life is not a race that can be run again after a false start." In conclusion, they asked,
"After the debate did [viewers] opt for the 1960s offered by Mr. Kennedy-more taxes,
more debt, more inflation and more government-or the 1960s of Mr. Nixon, a rational
extension of the 1950s. We think they chose Nixon."166
The third debate occurred on October 13 and presented the candidates in a split-
screen format with Kennedy in New York and Nixon in Los Angeles. Most of the
questions pertained to foreign policy, many specifically regarding the candidates' stances on
the defense of the Taiwanese islands of Quemoy and Matsu. In the final question of the
164 Ibid., 377.
165 "Round Two," Chicago Tribune, 8 October 1960, Pt. I, 12.
166 "The Pictures Become Sharp," Los Angeles Times, 9 October 1960, Sec. C, 4.
evening, Roscoe Drummond of the New York Herald Tribune turned the focus to national
prestige. He asked Kennedy whether it was truly possible to measure fluctuations in
American prestige accurately. Kennedy referred to a discussion by USIA head George
Allen concerning polls taken in Europe after the Sputnik launches. Kennedy noted,
"[Allen] said that many of these countries equate space developments with scientific
productivity and scientific advancement. And therefore ... many of these countries now
feel that the Soviet Union, which was once so backward, is now on par with the United
States." Kennedy also cited a February 1960 Gallup Poll in which citizens often countries
were asked which country would lead militarily and scientifically by 1970. The results
showed that a majority of those who responded in nine of the ten countries believed the
Soviet Union would lead.167 In his rebuttal, Nixon charged, "Well, I would say first of all
that Senator Kennedy's statement that he just made is not going to help our Gallup Polls
abroad and it isn't going to help our prestige either." He continued, "We're well ahead and
we can stay ahead, provided we have confidence in America and don't run her down in
order to build her up. I will only conclude by saying this: in this whole matter of prestige,
in the final analysis, it's whether you stand for what's right."'68
In his analysis of the third debate for the New York Times, James Reston perceived
a subtle shift in roles between the two candidates in which Kennedy emerged from
"underdog" status to worthy challenger. He noted, "Mr. Nixon's presentation was general
and often emotional; Mr. Kennedy's curt and factual. Mr. Nixon, whose campaign is based
167 Clevenger, 407-408.
168 Ibid., 409.
on his reputation for knowledge of the facts and experience, was outpointed on facts." The
candidates' responses to Roscoe Drummond's prestige question illustrate Reston's point-
Kennedy referred to polls while Nixon derided his opponent for contributing to the
problem. Reston concluded, "In sum, Mr. Kennedy gains as these debates go on even if he
does no more than stay level with the Vice President. For he started out against the charge
that he was immature and inexperienced, and after three of four broadcasts he has at least
held his own."'69
Journalist Walter Lippmann castigated Eisenhower and Nixon for minimizing the
importance of maintaining national prestige, proclaiming relative position with the Soviet
Union as the "supreme American problem in this era." Citing the Soviet Union's
acquisition and production of nuclear weapons as the "turning point at which our descent
had to begin," he lamented, "The story of the 50s is the story of our failure to rise to this
challenge, indeed to realize it, and our failure to achieve a foreign policy for what was
becoming a wholly new balance of power in the world." In conclusion, Lippmann
observed, "The issue of our prestige is surely the overriding issue in this election. But it is a
difficult one to explain, as Mr. Kennedy is finding, and it is an easy one to obfuscate, as Mr.
Nixon and Mr. Lodge are demonstrating."'70
The space-gap and missile-gap issues surfaced again in the fourth debate, held in
New York on October 21 and restricted to foreign policy topics. In his opening statement,
Kennedy predicted that by 1963 the Soviets would outnumber the United States in missiles.
169 James Reston, "The Third Debate," New York Times, 14 October 1960, 22.
For added emphasis, he stated, "I look up and see the Soviet flag on the moon." Regarding
prestige, he claimed, "The fact is that the State Department polls on our prestige and
influence around the world have shown such a sharp drop that up till now the State
Department has been unwilling to release them.""'
Panelist Walter Cronkite of CBS News asked Nixon whether the USIA polls to
which Kennedy and other Democrats referred existed and, if so, would he support
publishing them. Nixon acknowledged the reports, did not object to making them public
and said, "America's prestige abroad will be just as high as the spokesmen for America
allow it to be." He continued, "We have a presidential candidate stating over and over
again that the United States is second in space and the fact of the matter is that the space
score today is twenty-eight to eight-we've had twenty-eight successful shots, they've had
eight." He rebuked his opponent for "running [America] down" and stated, "Senator
Kennedy has a responsibility to criticize those things that are wrong, but he has also a
responsibility to be right in his criticism."'72
Kennedy reacted strongly to Nixon's comments, declaring, "I believe the Soviet
Union is first in outer space. You yourself said to Khrushchev, 'You may be ahead of us in
rocket thrust but we're ahead of you in color television' in your famous discussion in the
kitchen. I think that color television is not as important as rocket thrust." He continued,
"The United States no longer carries the same image of a vital society on the move with its
170 Walter Lippmann, "America's Prestige is an Issue," Los Angeles Times, 14 October
1960, Pt. III, 5.
'7 Clevenger, 416.
172 Ibid., 420.
brightest days ahead as it carried a decade or two ago. Part of that, as the Gallup Polls
show, is because the Soviet Union made a breakthrough in outer space." Finally, he stated,
"We're first in other areas of science but in space, which is the new science, we're not
Estimates of the total viewers for at least one of the debates range from 85 million to
120 million.174 Louis Harris, Kennedy's pollster, concluded that Kennedy's standing
improved after the debates, particularly on the issue of national prestige where Harris scored
Nixon behind 62 to 38 percent with debate viewers. The independent Gallup polls
corroborated Harris's findings. After gaining a slight edge following the first debate,
Gallup measured Kennedy ahead 51 to 45 percent with 4 percent undecided. These figures
represented a net gain of five points for Kennedy, a net loss of two points for Nixon, and a
reduction of 3 percent in undecided voters from the results posted before the debates."75
Democrats continued to press for the release of the USIA prestige polls after the
final debate but made no progress as the USIA continually refused to publish them.
Republicans argued that the polls took place after the Sputnik launches in 1957 and were no
longer pertinent. Democrats, however, claimed that the polls happened within the last six
months. Representative John E. Moss (D, Ca.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on
Government Information, announced a probe on October 24, 1960 to determine if the
173 Ibid., 420-421.
174 White, 293.
175 Ibid., 319-320.
Eisenhower Administration intentionally withheld the information because it could damage
Vice President Nixon's campaign.176
On October 26, White House press secretary James C. Hagerty admitted that a
USIA report on U.S. prestige abroad existed but refused to reveal its contents. He also gave
Moss and his fellow Democrats little hope of seeing the reports. Although the report
carried a classification of"secret, Hagerty maintained that it was "similar to many others
that are periodically prepared within the USIA." He stated, "Under policies approved by
the President, pertaining to internal working papers of the executive branch of the
government, the secretary of state and the director of the USIA have determined that this
paper will not be made available outside the executive branch.""'77
Speculation over the contents of the controversial report ended when the New York
Times obtained a copy and published it on October 27. Produced in June 1960, the report
contained the results of surveys conducted to assess the public opinion following the
collapse of the Paris summit conference between Eisenhower and Khrushchev in May 1960.
The results supported Kennedy allegations of declining prestige, both militarily and
scientifically. Of all respondents in Great Britain and France, 43 and 15 percent,
respectively, believed the Soviet Union led the United States in military strength. When
176 "House Probe Called of U.S. Prestige Polls," Chicago Tribune, 25 October 1960, Pt.
177 Robert Young, "Prestige Report in Secret File," Chicago Tribune, 27 October 1960,
Pt. I, 6.
asked which country led in space development, responses heavily favored the Soviet Union
(74 percent in Great Britain and 67 percent in France).178
During a speech in Spokane, Washington on October 26, Johnson alluded to the
report and said it raised three questions. First, "Did Mr. Nixon know about this report when
he claimed before a nation-wide television audience that American prestige was never
higher?" Second, "If he knew about it, did he deliberately mislead the American people?"
And third, "If he did not know about it, what's all this talk from the Republicans about the
experience and knowledge Mr. Nixon is supposed to have gained during the last eight
years?" Johnson concluded that the answers to those questions would illustrate which
candidate was "better equipped to lead."'79
Despite plans to distance himself from the campaign and focus on presidential
duties, Eisenhower could no longer remain silent in the face of constant reproach from the
Democrats. At a dinner rally for Nixon in Philadelphia on October 28, Eisenhower
defended his administration. In ajab obviously directed at Kennedy, he said, "Whatever
was America's image abroad at the beginning of this political campaign, it tends to be
blurred today ... because of unwarranted disparagement of our own military and economic
power. My friends, anyone who seeks to grasp the reins of world leadership should not
spend all his time wringing his hands." He did not mention the USIA report during his
speech. To show support for his vice president, Eisenhower declared that Nixon "has
178 "Text of Report on Post-Summit Trend in British, French Opinion of U.S. and
Soviet," New York Times, 27 October 1960, 28.
179 "Johnson Assails Nixon on Report," New York Times, 27 October 1960, 26.
shared more intimately in the great affairs of government than any Vice President in all our
history" and "is the best qualified man to be the next President of the United States."'18
The national prestige issue continued to receive publicity through the final days of
the campaign. On October 29, the New York Times published yet another USIA report,
dated October 10, 1960, titled "The World Reaction to the United States and Soviet Space
Programs-A Summary Assessment." The report reiterated that "public opinion in most
parts of the free world believes that the Soviet Union is ahead of the U.S. in space
achievements" and further validated Kennedy's contention that the world linked space
achievements with military strength. The conclusions drawn in the report included: "space
developments appear likely to continue to offer to the public mind and imagination a
convenient and compelling index or symbol of national achievement;" "space achievements
will probably continue to be viewed as essentially military in their immediate implications;"
"belief that the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. are in a space competition seem certain to persist, and
both sides are viewed as committed to rivalry in space;" and "it is probable that the
U.S.S.R. will be able to sustain the public impression that it is ahead in space, barring a
succession of massive and spectacular 'firsts' [by the United States]."'81
Election Day fell on November 8, less than three weeks after the last debate.
Kennedy won by a margin of 303 to 219 electoral votes. The popular vote difference was
only 112,000 votes and remains the narrowest margin in history.182 Kennedy's victory was
180 "Eisenhower Text at Nixon Rally," Los Angeles Times, 29 October 1960, Pt. I, 9.
181 "Text of Confidential U.S. Survey on Prestige Rating Abroad," New York Times, 29
October 1960, 10.
182 White, 350.
tainted by allegations of vote tampering in Texas and Illinois that, according to Stephen E.
Ambrose, "were too widespread, and too persistent, to be entirely without foundation."
Despite advice from friends, family, and even Eisenhower, Nixon chose not to request a
recount in those states to spare the nation a disruptive and potentially debilitating ordeal.183
To what extent Kennedy's persistence in addressing the space race and its
associated issues of national prestige, Republican lethargy, and declining military
superiority over the Soviet Union contributed to the victory is difficult to assess. Other
issues were raised during the campaign, including Kennedy's religion, civil rights, farm
policy, and domestic economic policy. Ted Sorenson considered foreign policy issues and
the televised debates as two critical elements that factored into Kennedy's victory.184
Clearly, Kennedy repeatedly challenged Nixon on the Eisenhower Administration's space
program and its negative effect on national defense and prestige throughout the campaign,
particularly during the debates.
It is reasonable to speculate that Kennedy, who had more access to intelligence than
many of his Democratic colleagues by virtue of serving on the Senate Foreign Relations
committee, may have known or suspected the fraudulence of the missile gap. Thus, one
may dismiss his pursuit of this issue as merely a continuation of a political strategy used
with great success by many other Democrats since the launch of Sputnik. However, his
statements regarding waning American prestige were rational in light of information
revealed during the course of the campaign. Indeed, the questions he raised continually
183 Ambrose, Nixon, 606-607.
184 Sorenson, Kennedy, 213-317.
elicited attention and response from not only Nixon but also Eisenhower. Eisenhower was
so agitated by Kennedy's statements on prestige that he developed an itinerary of personal
appearances for the two weeks leading up to Election Day. Mrs. Eisenhower, concerned for
her husband's health, convinced Nixon to politely decline Eisenhower's offer of support.185
Luck played a role in Kennedy's campaign, too. Nixon's hospital stay in late
August and early September delayed his schedule by two weeks and had a direct impact on
his appearance during the first debate. Moreover, by virtue of winning a coin toss, Kennedy
delivered the opening statement in the first debate and seized the initiative. Kennedy
remained on the offensive, and Nixon made the mistake of expending too much energy
answering for Eisenhower rather than campaigning for himself. In truth, Nixon and
Eisenhower did not agree on many issues, including the role of the space program. Nixon's
accord with Rockefeller on the eve of the Republican nominating convention further
illustrated these philosophical differences. Nevertheless, voters identified Nixon with the
Eisenhower programs and, with the exception of admitting the existence of a space race, he
failed to present himself as a Republican with new ideas.
185 Ambrose, Nixon, 600-601.
THE 1960 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IN FLORIDA
Like the national race, the contest for Florida's ten electoral votes in 1960 was close
and hotly contested. Recent history appeared to favor Vice President Richard M. Nixon.
Before 1952, Florida was firmly entrenched in the "Solid South," a bloc of eleven states
from the former Confederacy that turned to the Democratic Party in protest against the
Republican-led Reconstruction. Despite this heritage of supporting the Democratic
presidential candidate, Eisenhower carried the state in 1952 and 1956. G. Scott Thomas
attributed this shift of support to two factors: a large influx of Republican voters from other
regions of the country and mounting dissatisfaction with the civil rights stance of the
Democratic Party.186 Nixon sought to continue this recent trend, while Kennedy hoped to
capitalize on the large number of registered Democratic voters in the state and duplicate
Harry S. Truman's Florida victory of 1948.
All four candidates made appearances in the state, illustrating its importance to both
tickets. Kennedy and Nixon toured the state on October 18. They incorporated appearances
at the American Legion convention in Miami with visits to Jacksonville and the Tampa-St.
186 G. Scott Thomas, The Pursuit of the White House: A Handbook of Presidential
Election Statistics and History (New York: Greenwood Press, 1987), 395.
Petersburg area. Although their itineraries prevented a face-to-face meeting in any of the
cities, they addressed the American Legionnaires within an hour of each other. Nixon
vowed at the Republican nominating convention to campaign in all fifty states, so his
appearance was expected. Kennedy, however, visited only five southern states during the
course of the campaign, of which only Florida and North Carolina received an entire day of
the candidate's time. Nixon's running mate, Henry Cabot Lodge, also made brief stops in
Bradenton and Miami on September 16 to open the campaign in Florida. Johnson spent the
most time in the state, visiting six cities in two days to lay the groundwork for Kennedy's
arrival. Johnson's visit began in Jacksonville on October 12 and concluded with a whistle
stop tour through the Panhandle region on October 13.187
To identify the issues that concerned Floridians and assess their relative importance,
six daily newspapers from different regions were analyzed for the period coinciding with
the official campaign (September 1 November 8). The chosen newspapers were the
Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville), Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel, Tallahassee
Democrat, Tampa Tribune, and St. Petersburg Times. This group also includes the four
counties that contained the highest number of registered voters in 1960: Dade (Miami),
Pinellas (St. Petersburg), Duval (Jacksonville), and Hillsborough (Tampa). Editorials and
reader letters were examined to calculate the distribution of campaign and non-campaign
topics as well as the campaign issues with the highest frequency of appearance. Tables 1
and 2 contain the results of the analysis.
187 John H. Runyon, Jennifer Verdini, and Sally S. Runyon, eds., Source Book of
American Presidential Campaign and Election Statistics, 1948-1968, with a foreword by
Hubert H. Humphrey (New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1971), 160-163.
In terms of issues, the presidential candidates imparted the same foreign policy
messages delivered in other states and in the televised debates. On the editorial pages of
state newspapers, however, these issues shared the spotlight with Kennedy's religion and
various domestic concerns such as civil rights, government spending and the economy.
Reader letters also addressed the state and local office races and several referenda. In
addition, newspaper polls uncovered a tendency for protest votes rather than genuine
candidate support and, in some cases, a lack of interest in both candidates.
Campaign 45 56 56 46 31 43 277
Other 223 289 143 166 133 147 1101
Total 268 345 199 212 164 190 1378
% Campaign 16.79 16.23 28.14 21.70 18.90 22.63 20.10
Campaign 0 60 103 24 34 118 339
S Other 0 186 281 138 34 174 813
S Total 0 246 384 162 68 292 1152
S % Campaign 0 24.39 26.82 14.81 50.00 40.41 29.43
Table 1: Distribution of Editorials and Letters
Table 1 details the total number of editorials and reader letters published during the
official campaign season in each newspaper and how many pertained to the campaign. The
Florida Times-Union did not publish any reader letters during this period so the totals in the
corresponding rows are zero. In addition to topics relating to the presidential race, the
campaign category also included state races and referenda on proposed amendments to the
state constitution. The figures illustrate that, on the average, one out of five editorials
addressed a campaign topic. While reader letters dealing with the campaign exceeded
campaign-related editorials by nearly 50 percent overall, both groups clearly had other
competing interests and the frequency varied within the sampled newspapers.
L _______ J _______ & i q
State Races &
State Races &
Foreign Policy Foreign Policy Voter Debates Voter Civil Rights
(5) (6) Registration (4) Registration (4)
Voter National National Religion Farm Policy Religion
Registration Prestige Prestige (4) (4) (2)
(4) (5) (5)
Federal Debates State Races & Voter Labor Foreign Policy
Spending (4) Referenda Registration (3) (2)
(3) (5) (4)
___________ & S
N/A State Races & Pro-Democrat Media National State Races &
Referenda (25) Coverage Prestige Referenda
(10) (4) (5) (18)
N/A Dislike Both Religion State Races & Pro-Democrat Foreign Policy
Candidates (12) Referenda (5) (8)
N/A Religion State Races & Voter State Races & National
(7) Referenda Registration Referenda Prestige
(8) (2) (4) (7)
..oter. Pr-Leoca orgn rot__y I:-tSI1 rDUU
Table 2: Top Five Campaign Topics By Newspaper
To illustrate which campaign topics received the most attention in the sampled
dailies, the second table presents the top five campaign topics for each newspaper
categorized by editorials and reader letters. The parenthetical number represents the total
items concerning the topic. The space race does not appear anywhere in the table,
suggesting it held little significance as an issue for Florida voters. The associated issue of
national prestige, however, appeared in the top five lists for editorials in three newspapers
and for reader letters in two publications. Foreign policy also featured prominently in both
reader letters and editorials, weighing in as the most frequent letter subject in the St.
Petersburg Times. Topics relating to the state office races and referenda appear repeatedly
in both groups, demonstrating that the presidential race received even less consideration
than the figures in the first table might indicate. In fact, the St. Petersburg Times and the
Tampa Tribune published editorials on the state races and referenda more often than any
The second table also shows a disparity between the editors and their readers in
terms of topic importance. Two new topics that emerge in the reader section are religion
and dissatisfaction with both candidates. While Kennedy's religion elicited letters from
four of the five dailies that published reader letters, topping the list for the Tallahassee
Democrat and the Tampa Tribune, only the St. Petersburg Times ran editorials on the
subject with any frequency. Most of the letters and all of the St. Petersburg Times editorials
spoke out against bigotry or questioned the relevance of a candidate's faith. The lists for the
Miami Herald and the Tampa Tribune included letters from readers disenchanted with both
presidential candidates. This sentiment also surfaced in some of the polls conducted by the
Only two editorials focused on the space gap and both of them spoke out against
Kennedy. In a piece entitled "Where Is That Space Lag?" the editors of the Tallahassee
Democrat refuted Kennedy's claims that the United States remained behind the Soviet
Union in the space race. The editorial also took a swipe at Kennedy's message on declining
prestige by noting: "Today, if we are not too preoccupied with the habit of running down
our own country and its efforts, we must look at the record and see that we have caught up
with the Russians in most aspects of the space race and surpassed them in many." After
recounting the achievements of both programs to date, the editorial stated, "It seems fair to
say that whereas we rated ourselves five years behind [after the launch of Sputnik] we now
have in three years at least caught up-and may be farther ahead than we know."'8
The editors of the Tampa Tribune drew a similar conclusion after the launch of
Explorer VIII on November 3. Following a brief discussion of Explorer VIII's mission and
a scorecard between the two space programs, the editors asked, "Can the United States then
be as second-rate in scientific progress as Senator Kennedy would have us believe?" The
piece concluded, "This memo from the ionosphere is directed particularly to the attention of
American voters, whose ears of late have been assailed by messages which seem to have
come from much farther out in space. Science has yet to chart the limits of that wild blue
yonder from which political speeches are drawn."189
188 "Where Is That Space Lag?" Tallahassee Democrat, 5 October 1960, 4.
189 "Memo From the Ionosphere," Tampa Tribune, 5 November 1960, 10.
Like the editorials and reader letters, the campaign speeches delivered in Florida
mostly ignored the space race. The only candidate to mention the space program directly
was Lodge. He visited Florida on September 16, a few weeks after Hurricane Donna
caused considerable damage to the Florida Keys and the southern region of the state.
Speaking to a crowd at Bradenton, Lodge expressed hope that research would produce a
hurricane tracking satellite to assist in learning more about the dreaded phenomenon.190 In
the final days of the campaign, Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson (D, Wash.), chairman of the
Democratic Party's Executive Committee, spoke on behalf of the Kennedy-Johnson ticket
in Cocoa, the home of the U.S. space program and the Atlantic Missile Range. On
November 3, Jackson stated, "This community will play a very vital role in the great age of
space ahead of us and in the development of a retaliatory force." Alluding to Kennedy's
advocacy of a re-invigorated space program, Jackson added, "I don't see any let up at
[Cape] Canaveral-I see a step-up."191
While the space gap remained largely ignored, the national prestige issue received
early exposure in Florida. Publisher John S. Knight invited both candidates to be "editor for
a day" and write a guest column for the Miami Herald on the topic of their choice.
Kennedy's column, titled "We Can Untamish The Image Of America," appeared on August
28. Explaining the reasons he felt America's prestige started declining, Kennedy wrote,
"Our failure to propose any exciting new programs since the Marshall Plan is one. Our
190 Paul Hogan, "Lodge Calls Civil Rights a National Problem," Tampa Tribune, 17
September 1960, 1, 3.
191 Homer Pyle, "Demo Predicts Landslide," Orlando Sentinel, 4 November 1960, 1A,
fumbling leadership-as dramatized at Little Rock and during the U2 uproar-is another.
So was the blight of McCarthyism, when we looked scared and foolish as a nation."
Turning to foreign policy, he argued, "We have been too concerned with military bases that
the missile age is already making obsolete to notice that people cannot be bribed or
threatened into choosing sides in the cold war. That is why the conduct as well as the
content of our foreign policy will be all important during the next few years." Kennedy
concluded that only the Democratic Party possessed "the vision, the boldness, the sympathy
and that old-fashioned American self-confidence" to face the challenges of the coming
Nixon's column appeared on September 11 while he recuperated from a knee injury
suffered in August. He also selected national prestige as the topic of his column. However,
in contrast to Kennedy, he chose to focus on why America remained eminent in the eyes of
the world. In addition to economic and military strength, Nixon listed the space program as
evidence of high prestige. He wrote, "In overall space and missile technology, we have not
only gained ground since 1958 and the first sputnik, we have moved ahead of the Soviet
Union. From almost a dead start, we have shown that free people can outpace even the
concentrated efforts of a slave state." In his conclusion, Nixon cautioned against
complacency and indirectly rebuked Kennedy, stating, "Even the truth needs its constant
192 John F. Kennedy, "We Can Untarnish The Image Of America," Miami Herald, 28
August 1960, 2F.
and militant defenders. And that is our job. Selling America short is no way to accomplish
In addition to the guest editorial columns, both presidential candidates spoke out on
national prestige during their swing through Florida on October 18. In Jacksonville, Nixon
called his opponent a "prophet of doom and gloom" and criticized Kennedy's ridicule of the
Eisenhower Administration. He said, "Anybody who says America has been standing still
hasn't been traveling in America; he has been traveling in some other country as you here in
Jacksonville know."194 Speaking to a large crowd in St. Petersburg later the same day,
Nixon warned, "We're the strongest nation in the world-and Khrushchev knows it. But
we won't continue to be if we continually call ourselves second-rate."195
Reacting to Nixon's charges that his message contained "doom and gloom,"
Kennedy told Tampa voters, "I sound the alarm-not with the idea that the country is
doomed, but with the idea that if this country moves forward, nothing can stop it."196
Addressing a large crowd in Jacksonville, his final stop of the day, he stated confidently,
"Mr. Nixon said I should be ashamed of myself and apologize for saying the United States
is not doing as well as we should economically and militarily. But it's my function and my
duty to tell the American people the truth as I see it and let you form your own honest
193 Richard M. Nixon, "Our True Strength Is Great, Prestige Proves It," Miami Herald,
11 September 1960, 2C.
194 John R. Barry, "GOP Hopeful Says Peace U.S. Mission," Florida Times-Union, 19
October 1960, 1,5.
195 Paul Wilder and Al Hutchison, "Republican Raps Demo Platform," Tampa Tribune,
19 October 1960, 1.
judgment." He actively engaged the crowd, questioning the Eisenhower Administration's
contribution toward "building our prestige abroad" and asked, "Are you satisfied to be
second in science to the Soviet Union?"197
The prestige issue also received attention on the editorial pages in four of the
sampled newspapers. The only editorial in support of Kennedy's prestige stance appeared
in the St. Petersburg Times. It listed three examples of duplicity on the part of the
Eisenhower Administration, including the assertion that American prestige remained high.
The editorial stated, "It is not comforting to acknowledge how low our prestige is, but
denying it doesn't change things one iota. And national injury is added to insult when the
Administration makes it known openly that it deliberately is suppressing [USIA polls] as an
Two newspapers spoke out against Kennedy's position on prestige. The editors of
the Orlando Sentinel decried a "campaign of fear" and accused Kennedy of being desperate
to resort to such tactics. They also warned, "The shortest distance to [second-class status] is
to swallow the hogwash mix of statism, socialism, welfarism, apology and appeasement
urged on us by John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Democratic Party
platform."199 Miami Herald publisher John S. Knight dismissed national prestige as "one of
the flimsiest" issues in the campaign and quoted an editorial in the London Daily Telegraph
196 Jerry Blinn, "Kennedy Says GOP Blundered In Latin American Relations," St.
Petersburg Times, 19 October 1960, 1A.
197 J.C. Green, "Democratic Leader Rips Ike's Policy," Florida Times-Union, 19
October 1960, 1, 4.
198 "What Are We NOT Being Told?" St. Petersburg Times, 28 October 1960, 8A.
as observing, "[Basing an election on national prestige] is tantamount to giving foreigners
the right to choose the next American president." Knight concluded, "Sen. Kennedy has
raised a phony issue intended to fool the uninformed and impressionable segments of our
society. This is cynical and feckless campaigning which does little credit to a man of Sen.
The Tampa Tribune called both candidates to task for perpetuating the discussion
surrounding prestige. Referring to Kennedy, the editors admonished, "His concern, and that
of all Americans, should not be whether we are winning an international popularity contest,
but whether we are acting according to right and principle." The editors also disapproved of
Nixon's attempts to defend America's position in the world. Rather, they claimed, "It
should be his role to explain, with all the vigor at his command, upon what principles of
America, a nation of principles, each particular policy is based." The piece concluded with
a caveat for both candidates "to pay less attention to these currents and tides and keep their
eyes instead on the charted course the goals and principles of their nation provide."201
Published reader letters also demonstrated interest in the prestige issue, but
Kennedy's statements concerning prestige drew more critics than adherents. They
submitted comments such as "Mr. Kennedy has not told me what good will be done if he is
elected but only what terrible things will occur if I don't vote for him"202 and "Doesn't
199 "Kennedy's Campaign Of Fear," Orlando Sentinel, 18 October 1960, 6A.
200 John S. Knight, "'Prestige' Is A Phony Issue -It's Time To Stop Sniveling," Miami
Herald, 6 November 1960, 2F.
201 "Watch The Chart, Not The Tide," Tampa Tribune, 29 October 1960, 12.
202 Violet Schuman letter to Editor, Orlando Sentinel, 13 October 1960, 7C.
[Kennedy] realize he is hurting the prestige of the United States in every country in the
world by his outrageous lies?"203 Most of the reader statements against Kennedy touched
on the idea that his discussion of the issue contributed to any drop in prestige abroad.
However, those speaking in favor of the Democrat lauded him for his candor and saw no
need for fear. A representative letter equated the issue of declining prestige to "a question
of whether the party in power is fighting the cold war of 1960, the war against political
infiltration and economic attraction to the communist bloc, successfully for America."204
All four candidates spoke on foreign policy issues. While discussing the fight
against communism during a speech in Miami on September 16, Lodge enumerated three
essential strengths the United States must possess to succeed in the Cold War: "We must be
strong in a military sense, so that no other nation will dare attack us. We must be strong in
partnership with other nations, particularly the small nations confronted with poverty. We
must be strong in the example we set for the rest of the world."205 Johnson sardonically
discussed Nixon's experience with foreign affairs, one of the basic elements of the
Republican campaign strategy. He told a Jacksonville audience on October 12, "[Nixon]
went to Moscow to see Mr. Khrushchev and got in a finger-waving contest in a kitchen
203 J.M.H. letter to Editor, Tampa Tribune, 23 October 1960, 21A.
204 John S. Ripandelli letter to Editor, Tallahassee Democrat, 1 November 1960, 8.
205 Paul Hogan, "Lodge Calls Civil Rights a National Problem," Tampa Tribune, 17
September 1960, 1, 3.
before television cameras. The farther in Latin America he got the worse the riots got. It
finally reached the point where we had to send out the Marines to get him back safe."206
Johnson did not confine his remarks to Nixon. During an October 12 speech in
Tampa, he criticized the Eisenhower Administration for its policy toward Cuba and
communism in general. He said, "The front line of the cold war is now an hour's airline
ride from Tampa. If [the Republicans] took any action toward preventing Cuba from going
Communist, it's the best-kept secret of the past eight years."207 In conclusion, he stated,
"The problem is not to prevent a penetration of communism into the Western Hemisphere,
but to try to get it out of the Western Hemisphere. Shall we entrust that responsibility to the
party that permitted the Communists to penetrate in the first place?"208
The American Legion convention in Miami on October 18 was the most prominent
event on the Florida itineraries of both presidential candidates, and it provided an excellent
venue in which to discuss foreign policy. Both candidates wrote welcoming statements to
the American Legion delegates at the invitation of the Miami Herald staff. While Nixon
concentrated on the traditions of the organization and discussed the personal importance of
his membership, Kennedy used the letter as another opportunity to ridicule the Eisenhower
Administration. He wrote, "Eight years ago the United States was incontestably the most
powerful nation on earth. Today, there is doubt. This doubt has not only been expressed by
206 J.C. Green, "Johnson Terms GOP Campaign Tactics 'Smear and Fear' Type in Talks
Here," Florida Times-Union, 13 October 1960, 25, 31.
207 Jerry Blizin, "Johnson Lures Demos In Tour Through State," St. Petersburg Times,
13 October 1960, 11A.
208 Vernon Bradford, "Johnson Raps GOP On Cuba," Tampa Tribune, 13 October 1960,
"Wagging one's finger under Mr. Khrushchev's nose cost the taxpayers nothing, but words
do not stop Mr. Khrushchev." He also referred to the missile gap, claiming that Soviet
missile production would soon double or triple that of the United States and render the
American retaliatory forces vulnerable to a surprise attack.212
Foreign affairs featured prominently in other addresses from both candidates on
October 18. Questioning Kennedy's foreign policy experience and qualifications, Nixon
assured a Jacksonville crowd, "Cabot Lodge and I know who our enemies are. We know
what Mr. Khrushchev is and we haven't been fooled by him in the past and we won't be
fooled by him in the future." He described "survival of this nation and the future of the
young people of the world" as the most important issue facing America and called for
foreign policy based on strength rather than aggression.213
In St. Petersburg, Nixon continued to focus on foreign policy despite releasing
advance copies of a speech covering domestic issues. He repeated many of the points he
made in Jacksonville, but also dismissed Kennedy's "New Frontier" as a "retread of the
discredited and unworkable policies of the Truman Administration." He suggested that
voters base their choice on the answer to the question, "Which of the two teams can win the
peace and win it without war or surrender?" Contrasting the administrations of Truman and
Eisenhower, Nixon pointed out that "600 million human beings [were lost] to the
212 "Kennedy: Words Are Not Enough," Miami Herald, 19 October 1960, 1A, 18A.
213 John R. Barry, "GOP Hopeful Says Peace U.S. Mission," Florida Times-Union, 19
October 1960, 1,5.
Communists" under Truman while Eisenhower "got America out of one war, kept her out
of others, and we do have peace today."214
Kennedy incorporated Latin America into foreign policy speeches in Tampa and
Jacksonville following his American Legion speech in Miami. He identified three failures
of the Eisenhower Administration that he felt jeopardized the American Cold War
advantage in the Western Hemisphere. They included a failure to identify the United States
with the "rising tide of freedom" in Latin America, a failure to assist Latin American
citizens in reaching their economic goals, and a failure to "demonstrate America's
continuing concern with the problems of peoples to the south." Rather, he explained, the
United States often appeared to support brutal dictators. Kennedy characterized Cuba as a
"base for the attempted infiltration and subversion of all Latin America" and gave examples
of anti-American protests in Venezuela, Mexico, and Brazil.215 He reserved his most
cutting remarks for Nixon, however. Responding to claims that the Republican ticket
possessed more experience, Kennedy observed, "I'm not the vice president of the United
States who presided over the communication of Cuba. Five years ago our experienced vice
president said that communism was on the decline in [Latin],America."216
A group of Republican senators and representatives formed a self-described "truth
squad" whose purpose was to follow Kennedy around the country and identify purported
214 Charles Van Devander, "Nixon Says Victory By GOP Best Hope For U.S. Survival,"
St. Petersburg Times, 19 October 1960, 1A, 2A.
215 Jerry Blinn, "Kennedy Says GOP Blundered In Latin American Relations," St.
Petersburg Times, 19 October 1960, 1A.
216 J.C. Green, "Democratic Leader Rips Ike's Policy," Florida Times-Union, 19
October 1960, 1, 4.
the needy, the aged, the working man and the farmer, and the Democrats and Kennedy are
going to do just that."219
Although Kennedy and Nixon chose to focus on foreign policy during their tour of
the state, Lodge and Johnson addressed two controversial issues that received more
attention from Florida voters: civil rights and Kennedy's religion. During his speech in
Bradenton on September 16, Lodge frankly discussed civil rights. He declared, "America
must set a good example for the rest of the world. Four-fifths of the world population are
not in the white race. We should advance in civil rights because these people are watching
us. This makes it a national problem, not one that is confined to any one region."220
Johnson, in turn, proclaimed in an address in Jacksonville on October 12 that the Democrats
"are going to protect the constitutional rights of every American regardless of his race, his
creed, or the region where he lives."221
The inflammatory subject of civil rights found its way to the editorial pages, but
often cloaked in an appeal for the preservation of "Southern heritage." The editors of the
Orlando Sentinel claimed that the Democratic Party took the South for granted and urged
readers to vote Republican in protest. They vowed, "We have protested and still protest and
will vote against and write against the Demo ticket simply because it is the only way to be
219 "Long Urges Floridians to Back Kennedy," Tampa Tribune, 6 November 1960, 7B.
220 Paul Hogan, "Lodge Calls Civil Rights a National Problem," Tampa Tribune, 17
September 1960, 1, 3.
221 J.C. Green, "Johnson Terms GOP Campaign Tactics 'Smear and Fear' Type in Talks
Here," Florida Times-Union, 13 October 1960, 25, 31. 4
heard. We must fight for what we think is right and not what the Democratic politician-
platform writers think is right for us."222
The editors of the Tampa Tribune chastised Kennedy for hypocrisy surrounding his
statement that he would consider appointing an African-American lawyer to the federal
bench. They cited Kennedy's criticism of Lodge when he predicted the appointment of an
African-American cabinet member if the GOP ticket won the election. At the time,
Kennedy accused Lodge of engaging in "racism in reverse." They stated, "No man of
outstanding ability should be disqualified from serving in public office because of race. But
he shouldn't be appointed because of race, either." They also warned that Kennedy's
statement carried greater portent than Lodge's prediction because, as president, Kennedy
would possess the power to appoint judges but the vice president has no authority to appoint
The editors of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville exhibited a very
conservative position on integration. They praised four members of Georgia governor
Ernest Vandiver's staff for resigning in protest to his alleged connection with Democratic
sympathizers of Martin Luther King, Jr. The comments were likely aimed at Kennedy, too,.
for his involvement while King was incarcerated in Atlanta in October 1960. Denouncing
the propaganda "used diligently by certain factions in the South toward convincing the
Southern people that integration of the races is inevitable," the editors equated it to
communist propaganda and the rhetoric of Axis Sally during World War II. Praising the
222 "A Protest Vote For The South," Orlando Sentinel, 13 October 1960, 8A.
223 "The Senator Is Consistent," Tampa Tribune, 2 November 1960, 22.
Vandiver staffers, they said, "These four men, and thousands of others throughout Georgia
and the South, realize that once we give in we really are lost."224
Another Florida Times-Union piece, appearing on Election Day, lamented the
vanishing of the Old South. The editors wistfully asked, "Will the South, after the votes are
tabulated, have played a hand in literally making the South 'Gone With The Wind'?" They
noted that both Kennedy and Nixon promised additional civil rights legislation after their
election. And, like Rhett Butler, the candidates "exploited the South for votes in hopes of a
victory, but neither man is concerned with Southern tradition or custom." The editors
concluded that since one of the men would inevitably take office, Southerners who voted
would also inadvertently bring about the South's eventual demise.225
While civil rights appeared only in the Tampa Tribune's list of top five topics,
Kennedy's religion evoked discussion in editorials and reader letters of five sampled *
newspapers as well as on the stump. At several stops on his Florida tour Johnson
challenged this sensitive issue, utilizing the same strategy of directness that Kennedy used
successfully in the West Virginia primary. Johnson devoted a portion of his speeches to
defending his running mate's patriotism and record of public service in order to illustrate
the irrelevance of Kennedy's chosen faith. He also recited the story of how Kennedy's
oldest brother, Joseph Kennedy, Jr., perished during a volunteer mission in World War II.
As he concluded the story, he said, "Not a soul got up in a pulpit and asked what church
224 "South Hasn't Lost Yet, Despite Propagandists," Florida Times-Union, 29 October
225 "Will South After Election Be Gone With The Wind?" Florida Times-Union, 8
November 1960, 4.
[Joseph] went to. I say that any man good enough to die for his country is good enough to
serve his country in any capacity."226
Three newspapers addressed Kennedy's religion and unanimously rejected its
validity as an issue. All of them went on to endorse Nixon as their candidate of choice.
The editors of the Tampa Tribune dismissed fears that the Pope or other officers of the
Catholic Church would influence Kennedy in the event he won the election. They
complimented Kennedy on his directness in rejecting such an idea and cited Kennedy's
congressional record of voting against federal aid for parochial schools and the appointment
of a U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. In conclusion, they deemed the religious issue "as
false as a Halloween face" and proclaimed, "no American should cast his vote on the basis
of Senator Kennedy's religion."227
Editors of the Miami Herald based their refutation of the issue on Article VI of the
U.S. Constitution, which deems, "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification
to any office or public trust under the United States." However, they went much further than
merely admonishing voters who based their choice on religion. They characterized the
consideration of Kennedy's religion as "a disgraceful manifestation of mass bigotry" and
asked what right the detractors possessed that permitted them to ignore the U.S.
Constitution. In conclusion, they chided, "Shame, we say, on those who prate of their
226 J.C. Green, "Johnson Terms GOP Campaign Tactics 'Smear and Fear' Type in Talks
Here," Florida Times-Union, 13 October 1960, 25, 31.
227 "It's The Wrong Test," Tampa Tribune, 28 October 1960, 10B.