Kennedy-Humphrey Duel Gets Confusing
May 7, 1960
Kennedy-Humphrey Duel Gets Confusing
Charleston, W. Va. – Democracy at work—primaries democracy, that is—can be unnerving. In the Kennedy-Humphrey duel it can be pretty darned confusing too.
In the course of remarks while handshaking his way through tool-workers in Huntington Humphrey said that “tremendous pressures” had been put on him to withdraw from the West Virginia primary. Later, at a press conference, he was asked to elaborate. But no amount of questioning could get the senator to identify the pressure groups or the type of pressure applied. He appeared to have in his possession political ammunition which would demolish whatever chances Kennedy has of winning in next Tuesday’s voting, if he now bluntly accused the Kennedy team of trying to buy him off. Indeed, he was asked just about that.
“If that’s your deduction,” he said to the reporter, “I leave it to you.” It puzzled the room. He wouldn’t expand.
Would the senator accept the vice presidential nomination of his party?
No Offer Received
“I haven’t been offered it,” Humphrey answered. “Besides, I don’t like iffy questions like that.” Before that topic could be pursued, the agile man from Minnesota was off on a discourse on the “three kinds of politics.” He listed these as 1) big money politics, 2) big city machine politics, and 3) the politics of plain people.
“I don’t qualify for the first two,” Humphrey said in his zestful, rapid-fire way. “I have not gone through this state with an open-end checkbook and little black bags.”
“Are you saying Kennedy is?” he was asked.
“I didn’t accuse anyone” Humphrey said quickly. “But if the shoe fits . . . [“] He didn’t finish the sentence. “I’m operating on less than a shoestring. I’m substituting my mind, my body, my vitality for the other people’s money. I’m a very willful fellow.” He said his total TV and radio budget for West Virginia was $1,200, and of the increasingly blunt anti-Humphrey advertisements Kennedy is taking in West Virginia newspapers, the Minnesotan snorted and snapped. “They ought to be investigated by the Federal Trade Commission on the grounds that this is false and misleading advertising.”
Humphrey went on to say he found it difficult to understand why “my friend Jack is so melodramatic” about he importance of West Virginia.
“The Democratic nomination isn’t going to be decided in West Virginia,” he snapped; surveying a living room of newsmen and cameras. “If Jack loses here he can still go on. He likes to make every primary appear to be the alpha and the omega of the political year. Sure, it will be a factor, but it’s not all that important. I disagree, too, with the feeling some have that our contest here has hurt the party. If Kennedy wins the nomination I’ll support him enthusiastically. He’s a fine senator, a good man, and he doesn’t deserve to be discredited by Hubert Humphrey, and won’t be. Either of us could take the measure of Nixon.”
Hits at Roosevelt
Humphrey chided Kennedy for “assuming he has a divine right” to run without opposition in primaries. But he was sharper when he mentioned Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr., who has been getting some solid licks in for Kennedy in more depressed areas. “He doesn’t do much credit to his illustrious father,” Humphrey said offended. “He deals in personalities, no issues. He was pleased once to have my active support.”
He identified himself as a “Truman Democrat,” but felt the former president leaned toward Sen. Symington. Humphrey will be among eight senators present at a dinner for Sen. Lyndon Johnson in West Virginia tonight. “If Lyndon wants to give me his blessing that night, that’ll be fine. But I think,” he added, “that the only blessing he’ll give will be on Lyndon.”
Joe Glazer, an Akron, Ohio, supporter who has been playing git-tar [sic] for Hubert at rallies, broke up the press conference. “Sorry, senator,” he said, “but you’ve got to talk to a group of funeral directors.”
“Any significance in that, Hubert?” a reporter asked. But once again the senator took the Fifty [sic].
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