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Charleston Gazette
April 8, 1960

Harry G. Hoffmann's Politics

Jack Has Real Stake in Vote

With the Wisconsin primary out of the way, West Virginia is now looked upon as the big test for the presidential aspirations of Sen. John F. Kennedy.

In fact, there are some who believe the outcome of his campaign for the Democratic nomination will hinge largely on what happens in this state on May 10.

If Kennedy carries West Virginia, he will thus gain a strong argument to use against those who fear his Catholicism would be a barrier in the general election, or those who have doubts about his ability to attract labor votes.

But if Sen. Hubert Humphrey should be the victor in West Virginia, it is the opinion of those with the "big test" theory that Kennedy would have little chance of success in Los Angeles.

In short, this school of thought holds that Kennedy will win or lose the Democratic nomination in West Virginia. Ironically, the same measurement is not applied to Humphrey who is not looked upon as a potent contender for the nomination, no matter how the primary turns out in this state. Humphrey's unhappy role is that he can stop Jack, but he can't nominate Hubert.

Another view is that the West Virginia presidential primary will be nothing more than another popularity contest, with little if any effect on the outcome at Los Angeles.

Those holding to this position point out that three other potential nominees - Adlai Stevenson, Stuart Symington and Lyndon Johnson - are not entered in the West Virginia primary, that the vote therefore will be nothing more than a test between Kennedy and Humphrey, and that it will not be binding on any of the delegates to the national convention.

There can be no doubt, however, that the key figure is Kennedy. He is far out in front at this time. It is conceivable that a favorable vote here could be a clincher; it is equally plausible that a defeat could be a fatal blow. He, in fact, has the only real stake in the West Virginia primary at the presidential level.

Kennedy's victory in Wisconsin was looked upon by most West Virginia leaders as impressive. Some thought he had been put to disadvantage by extravagant predictions of the "experts" indicating he would sweep the state. But there is a general agreement that a majority of more than 106,000 is not to be discounted, especially when the contest was in the backyard of Sen. Humphrey's home state of Minnesota.

There is mixed opinion on just what effect this will have on West Virginia. Some Democratic leaders think it will have a strong psychological effect favoring Kennedy; others say it will not sway the West Virginia vote one way or another.

What is the probable outcome of the Kennedy-Humphrey contest in West Virginia? This is a question that cannot be answered at this time with any degree of accuracy.

The best estimate is that it will be a close race, with the outcome depending largely on the effectiveness of the campaigning between now and May 10.

Both sides seem to sense this. Two of Sen. Kennedy's brother, Robert and Ted, were in the state the day after the Wisconsin primary to sharpen up the organization in preparation for the campaign.

Sen. Humphrey will make a bus tour through Kanawha, Fayette and Raleigh counties today, and Summers, Mercer and Boone Saturday. Sen. Kennedy will come into the state Monday.

The best indication that West Virginia is yet to be won is the apparent indecision of voters at this time. Gazette Political Writer Tom Stafford, who has been traveling with gubernatorial candidate Hulett Smith this week, has been making a point of asking about the presidential race. He found considerable interest in the outcome of the Wisconsin primary, but most people said they had not made up their minds how they will vote on May 10.

Three major factors, each difficult to weigh at this time, enter into any attempt to analyze the West Virginia outcome.

One is the effectiveness of any move by the Johnson-Symington people to support Humphrey as a means of slowing up Kennedy. The presence of such an effort will be denied by all parties concerned, but it's present. There are individuals who are at the opposite pole from Humphrey in political philosophy, but who have said they will vote for him just to try to stop Kennedy. The big question is how organized this movement can become.

Secondly, there is the question of how big a factor the religious issue will be in predominately Protestant West Virginia, where no more than five per cent of the voters are Catholic. There has been no test of this question in West Virginia since 1928 when Catholic Al Smith lost the state - and lost Kanawha County by 10,000 votes while non-Catholic Democrats for county offices were winning by 10,000 majorities. Many think the religious climate is totally different than it was 32 years ago.

The third major factor is organized labor. Both men are looked upon with favor by labor leaders on the national scene. Miles Stanley, president of the state AFL-CIO, has said his organization will remain neutral, but there are signs of unofficial activity in behalf of Humphrey. There have been signs of mixed feelings in labor's ranks - and this is where the Wisconsin primary, which sharpened the picture of Kennedy as a winner, is likely to have its great effect in West Virginia.

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