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Charleston Gazette-Mail
February 7, 1960

“It is an important bellwether”

Kennedy Sees State Key Test

Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy, now entered in seven Democratic primaries across the country, rates West Virginia as one of the key testing grounds of the 1960 presidential campaign.

“Franklin Roosevelt and a good many other candidates have run for president in this state,” Kennedy said here Saturday. “It is an important bellwether.”

He pointed to the geographical and social ties West Virginia has with the South, North and Midwest, and declared:

“What happens to me in the West Virginia primary could tell really whether I’m going to be nominated.”

The 43-year-old Kennedy, glamour boy of the Democratic Party and member of one of New England’s most prominent families, made these observations in filing in the Democratic primary early Saturday morning.

He flew here from Indiana, where he had filed earlier in the day, and left within the hour for a speaking engagement in Bismarck, S. D. Today he’ll speak in Albuquerque, N.M.

Kennedy’s staff had made arrangements with Secretary of State Joe F. Burdett to keep his office open for the Kennedy filing. Kennedy arrived about 10 minutes before the secretary, who had been chaperoning a dance for his daughter.

The necessary papers were signed at 1:22 a.m., with Kennedy saying “I’m hopeful” of winning the West Virginia primary. Sen. Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota entered the Democratic primary earlier in the week.

Kennedy said he has no pledges yet from West Virginians running for delegate to the Democratic National Convention. “I would hope I would receive some support from the West Virginia delegates if I win the West Virginia primary,” he added.

The youthful looking senator and Pulitzer Prize winner looks on West Virginia’s sagging economy as the most critical domestic issue of the primary. On this subject he said:

“I think the most serious problem is the decline of the income level of this state . . . The coal industry has declined just as the textile industry has in my own state of Massachusetts, and the depressed areas haven’t been able to make a comeback.”

As a senator Kennedy said he has been a staunch supporter of such corrective legislation as the depressed areas bill, and as president he can see no reason for changing his position.

Also, he said, he is a staunch advocate of legislation “dealing with research into coal, legislation making more effective use of our food services, and legislation providing for minimum standards of unemployment compensation.”

At the national level Kennedy said “the overriding issue of course for all the states is our relation with the Soviet Union and our efforts to secure peace.”

Other major national issues of the 1960 campaign, he added, are the shape of American defenses, “the fact that our economic growth has been only a small percentage of what the Soviet Union has been doing in the last 10 years, and the fact that we’ve been in a period of slack as far as our national course and vigor are concerned.”

He told newsmen who were waiting for him at the Statehouse that he first decided against entering the West Virginia primary because it isn’t binding on the delegates. “It is really in a sense a preference or popularity primary,” he explained.

“But I have stated that I will run in any primary where any other candidate will run,” he noted, “and when Sen. Humphrey issued me a challenge I was delighted to oblige.”

Kennedy said that although he is now entered in seven primaries and may yet enter others he’ll be back “for quite a few days” to campaign in this state.

“I hope to go to the next convention having won the primaries I have entered,” he continued. “This in my opinion is the best way to go into the convention.”

He observed that although Vice President Nixon is unchallenged for the Republican nomination, he is running in at least three primaries.

“Now if he is running in three primaries to demonstrate his acceptability to the Republican voters,” the senator added, “it seems to me that any Democratic candidate who hopes to secure the endorsement of the West Virginia delegation or any other delegation should be willing to submit themselves to one or more primaries across the country.”

Kennedy was blunt in his answer when he was asked about his strategy if he and Nixon should go into the general election campaign against each other. He said:

“I believe any vigorous, progressive Democrat can win the presidency in 1960.”


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