1960 presidential election in Florida : did the space race and the national prestige issue play an important role


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1960 presidential election in Florida : did the space race and the national prestige issue play an important role
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Babish, Randy Wade

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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Title Page
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    Table of Contents
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    List of Tables
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        Page v
    The political context of the space race: 1957-1959
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    Space-race issues in the 1960 presidential campaign
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    The 1960 presidential campaign in Florida
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Full Text



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



December, 2000

Unpublished work Randy Wade Babish

The thesis of Randy Wade Babish is approved:



Committee Chairperson

A ceed th pment:

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Accepted for the Uiversity:

Dean of Graduate Studies

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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.


L IST O F TA B L E S ...............................................................................................................v


1. THE POLITICAL CONTEXT OF THE SPACE RACE: 1957 1959 ..................1


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



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.

Chapter 1


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-

generation weapons.

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
1997): 86.
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,
1963), 46.

event, whereby Americans simultaneously saw hope and danger in the enigmatic realm of

outer space.15

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,
1990), 450.

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,
1993), 304-305.
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.
37 Ibid.

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,
1993), 35-36.
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

Security Panel.47

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

48 Ibid.

with economic aid, world trade, international scientific cooperation, education, and

domestic spending.49

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

long-range plan.62

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,
1961), 61-62.
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
1959, 1,50.
73 "Excerpts from the House Report on Space Policy," New York Times, 11 January
1959, 50.

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

presidential campaign.

81 Hanson W. Baldwin, "Russia's Moon Shot Again Demonstrates Its Lead in Space
Race," New York Times, 20 September 1959, Sec. IV, 7.

Chapter 2


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

world security."109

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

the issue.

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,
1961), 68.
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.
I, 7.
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.
I, 10.
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.

Chapter 3


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 &



Economy &



State Races &



Foreign Policy Foreign Policy Voter Debates Voter Civil Rights

(5) (6) Registration (4) Registration (4)

(6) (5)

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)

Economy &















___________ & S



Foreign Policy









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)

(8) (2)

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









Foreign policy


ilSllIKe DotU



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

national topic.

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

sampled newspapers.

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

'executive secret."'198

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.

Kennedy's stature."200

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,
1A, 8A.

"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

cabinet members.223

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
1960, 6.
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.