Newspaper Articles

Charleston Gazette
March 18, 1960


Harry G. Hoffmann's Politics

They Should Get Their Feet Wet

West Virginia's presidential primary may be nothing more than a popularity contest and it may have nothing to do with how the state delegation votes in the Democratic National Convention.

But, from a national standpoint, it is considered an event of significance in the selection of the Democratic nominee for president.

This became apparent this week when Sen. John F. Kennedy came to Charleston to open his state campaign headquarters.

Kennedy:whose only opponent in the West Virginia primary is his friend and fellow senator, Hubert Humphrey:made it clear that he considered the West Virginia primary one of importance from the standpoint of sizing up the feeling of rank and file voters.

This is something that is to be expected of a candidate. But of more importance is the opinion of disinterested parties:the newspaper and newsmagazine reports traveling with Kennedy:on the significance of the West Virginia primary.

There is general agreement that the "BIG" test is next month's Wisconsin primary, in which Kennedy and Humphrey are also the only contestants. But one reason for this is the possible influence it will have on the West Virginia primary.

With some degree of historical probability, there is a feeling that the winner of the Wisconsin primary will gain an advantage in the West Virginia primary. And that is one of the reasons why so much importance is placed in the Wisconsin vote.

This seems somewhat fantastic, considering that the West Virginia convention delegates will be under no obligation to consider the popular vote:and the further fact that only two candidates are running in the West Virginia primary.

The importance given to West Virginia is in its make-up. It's a little bit south and a little bit north, a little bit labor and a little bit business, a little bit prosperous and a little bit depressed.

In short, it's a conglomeration, a cross-section of what might well be applied on a national scale. The one who wins West Virginia could argue that he could also win nationally:especially Kennedy, who could use a victory in predominately Protestant West Virginia as proof that his Catholicism is no barrier to the presidency.

A question that has been raised, however, is whether the supporters of Sen. Johnson and Sen. Symington will use the West Virginia primary as a means of "ganging up" on front-runner Kennedy.

Neither Johnson nor Symington has seen fit to enter any primary. In fact, neither has seen fit to admit that he is a candidate for the presidential nomination. Both are standing in the wings, each hoping to get the call when the Democrats assemble in Los Angeles.

Speculation that the Johnson-Symington people may be hoping to buy some bargain straw in West Virginia grew largely out of the manner in which a presidential contest developed in this state.

Humphrey initiated the contest on a Thursday, after saying on the preceding Tuesday that he would enter the West Virginia primary only to make it a contest. This led to speculation that other hopefuls:especially the Johnson supporters:inspired Humphrey's decision.

Kennedy, on his visit here this week, made it clear that he was sure Humphrey would have no part in any such scheme. He emphasized that both he and Humphrey were seriously in the presidential race:and if Johnson and Symington felt the same way they should get their feet wet in a primary.

Symington will be here Saturday. He may want to say whether he is a candidate for the presidential nomination . . . and, if so, why he isn't entered in the West Virginia primary. The same goes for Johnson, who will be in Clarksburg on May 7.

This column stated earlier this month that Sen. Jennings Randolph is in the Johnson camp, although not as openly as Sen. Byrd since he is up for re-election this year.

From Sen. Randolph, this brought a copy of a letter he had sent to the general organizer of the national plumbers union, in which he said as follows:

"I am not supporting the candidacy of any particular person for the Democratic nomination for president at this time. It is my hope we will nominate a progressive and liberal leader, who can be elected in November."

Randolph also said his senatorial colleagues running for president would receive every courtesy when visiting West Virginia . . . but he failed to say whether he would consider Johnson, Kennedy, Symington, Morse, Humphrey, Winkin, Blinkin, Nod or Byrd to be a progressive or liberal leader.

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