Profile of a Presidential Candidate – 1
Kennedy Is Storybook Candidate
May 7, 1960
Profile of a Presidential Candidate – 1
Kennedy Is Storybook Candidate
This is the first of two articles on candidates for the Democratic nomination for President in the state primary Tuesday. A profile of Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey will be published Monday.
If a producer wanted to make a movie on the emergence of an immigrant family in America, who could serve as a model better than the Kennedys of Massachusetts?
And if the leading role demanded good looks, good fortune and good sense, who could be a more natural selection than Sen. John F. Kennedy, the star of that remarkable family?
Who, indeed? For there already is something of the storybook ending about the family and something of the matinee idol about the senator.
These qualities have been on display for weeks in West Virginia where assorted Kennedys have been working hard to win the Democratic Presidential primary for their brother.
The scene has nearly reached the point it did in Wisconsin where Hubert Humphrey saw the brothers, the sisters, their wives and husbands in the field against him.
“I feel,” he said a little sadly, “like an independent operator running against a chain store.”
The senator’s personal glamour also has been demonstrated. A reporter, watching a mob of adolescent girls fighting for his autograph, concluded that if teen-agers could vote, Dick Clark is the only man who could beat him.
But it obviously takes something more than a talented family and personal appeal to be the man who, polls say, would be President of the United States if an election were held today.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who finds himself in this enviable position, was born May 29, 1917, at Brookline, Mass. His father, Joseph, is a multi-millionaire. One of his grandfathers was major of Boston. Another was a saloon keeper. Their parents were poor Irish immigrants.
There were nine children in his family. An older brother, who Kennedy says was the brightest, and an older sister, who married nobility, were killed in air accidents.
Another of the brothers, Robert, has won fame as a lawyer. Another sister married Peter Lawford, the actor, a third brother, Ted, the youngest, has distinguished himself during this campaign.
Kennedy graduated with honors from Harvard; wrote a senior thesis which became a best selling book; and was an authentic war hero.
He has been explicit on religion. He will not be directed in his duties by church leaders. He has served the nation for 18 years and has taken the same oath as the President takes. “I think something very important to America would be lost to America if the principle of separation of church and state were changed,” he says.
These pronouncements, delivered with obvious sincerity, are having effect. Kennedy is gaining ground and gaining it rapidly.
Althouhg [sic] religion is still the main question, there are other parts of the Kennedy makeup that cause some people to wonder about him.
One, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, has never forgiven him for his seeming reluctance to speak against Sen. McCarthy when McCarthy’s influence was greatest.
Kennedy, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, “Profiles in Courage,” now says he endorsed the Senate censure of McCarthy. Mrs. Roosevelt says he should have said something at the time.
She says the Presidency shouldn’t be held by “someone who understands what courage is and admires it but has not quite the independence to have it.”
In spite of this, her son, Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr., is strongly for Kennedy and has spoken on his behalf throughout the West Virginia campaign.
His book, which dealt with political leaders who made unpopular decisions, focused attention on what some regarded as his timidity on other issues. Sen. Lyndon Johnson repeated a famous remark to the effect that Kennedy has too much profile and not enough courage.
Others regard him as being too young. He will be 43 this month but he looks more youthful. He points out that he is now older than was Theodore Roosevelt when he became President or Thomas Jefferson when he wrote the Declaration of Independence.
Sen. Humphrey has criticized him for being too rich . . . a condition that doesn’t embarrass many individuals but sometimes is unfortunate for Presidential aspirants. Ideally, they should be born in log cabins.
Some labor leaders don’t like him and the feeling isn’t limited to officers of the Teamsters Union. Although his labor voting record has been excellent (as scored by the AFL-CIO), most union men think Humphrey is more sincere about his interest in them than is Kennedy.
He became a member of the House of Representatives in 1946, a senator in 1952. He exploded on the national scene when he nearly won the vice presidential nomination from Estes Kefauver four years ago. Their struggle was the most dramatic development in the widely televised convention.
Kennedy has won impressive primary victories in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Indiana and Pennsylvania. His success has demonstrated his power to get votes in northern states and from large metropolitan areas.
The secret, he thinks is the same that he says will get him votes in all sections of the country: an excellent legislative record and a personal appeal that has demonstrated it is as potent elsewhere as it is at home.
There is only one question about Kennedy which has not been satisfactorily answered: can a Catholic get votes from the South and particularly from that part of it which H. L. Mencken described as the Bible belt.
For practical purposes, West Virginia qualifies under those two standards and the consensus is that if Kennedy can beat Humphrey here he will almost certainly be his party’s nominee in November.
Obviously, the issue isn’t that simple. Not everyone will be influenced by the religious question. A lot of people plan to vote for Humphrey because they think he is a better man.
Another factor that burs the religious question is Kennedy’s claims that other possible candidates have urged their supporters to vote for Humphrey so that the Kennedy boom will be stopped.
As a result of all these things, most national reporters believe Humphrey will win the election. Kennedy says if he gets 40 per cent of the vote, he will be lucky.
But that is probably the candidate in him speaking. The Kennedy drive is gaining. Few today can conceive of him losing by that margin and many are beginning to think he may win.
The most obvious reason for this shifting picture is the campaign that Kennedy and his forces are making, particularly in the southern coal mining counties.
The same charm and the same message have been used. Roughly, it goes like this: Wisconsin demonstrated that Humphrey doesn’t have a chance for the nomination (Kennedy beat him by 100,000 votes) and if other candidates wanted to stop him here, why didn’t they enter the primary?
West Virginia is one of the most depressed states, he says, and if he wins his first action will be to assist it. “I ask for your help now,” he says. “I promise you my help in the future.”
CHARLESTON - The West Virginia primary will not tell very much about the kind of President most Americans want, but it is telling a very great deal about the kind of President they will get should Sen. Hubert Humphrey or Sen. John Kennedy win the Democratic nomination and the election.
The operations of chance and the American political system have combined to put into fierce opposition here two ambitious young politicans with similar records who profess much the same aims. For reasons which have been well explored in recent weeks, the outcome suddently seems critical to them.
In their business, as in war, there is no substitute for victory. Denied the weapons of real difference in political outlook, they have thrown themselves and their whole backgrounds - which are typically American but very different one from the other - into the struggle. The result may not be edifying but it is fascinating.
Both by now are out on all kinds of limbs. The best description of the particular one marked "West Virginia's problems" came from a kindly grey-haired school teacher who was listening to Kennedy describe his program for the state. Asked what she thought of it she murmured:
"Yes, West Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."
There are in fact two - Kennedy and Humphrey. That the state needs and wants help was acknowledged by its Republican Governor, Cecil Underwood, when he pressed the panic button at the White House and got assurances that the President will urge all federal agencies "to do what they could to help West Virginia."
The recklessness with which the young senators are trying to turn their liabilities into assets by sheer vocal pyrotechnics is a testament to their youth, of course, but it is one many party leaders feel they could do without.
Humphrey exploits his early hardships and economic struggle with highly quotable comments on the Kennedy wealth and super-organization. Republicans can quote, too, of course - and will, if need be. Kennedy has skillfully built an underdog role upon his minority religious status, of which the recoil in the party may be serious.
It is in this area that much of the pressure on him to withdraw of which Humphrey complains, is being generated. It comes from labor leaders who fear to take sides between the two candidates for fear of jeopardizing some part of their own leadership. Others worry lest the argument, especially prolonged as it has been in this heavily Protestant state, hurts next November.
The West Virginia test is also unsatisfactory in that major political figures here are neither for Kennedy nor Humphrey but for Sen. Lyndon Johnson or Sen. Stuart Symington or Adlai Stevenson. Since Kennedy seemed at once the most formidable and the most vulnerable, they tend to get behind Humphrey.
For that reason and others the primary means little in the strictly political sense. Few delegates are involved, and the state is called near the end of the crucial first ballot, anyway.
The initiative for the great debate which is the climax of the primary campaign came from Humphrey; the conditions were virtually all laid down by Kennedy. Those conditions were met by Humphrey because he feared Kennedy would withdraw if they were not. Most Democrats will be glad when it is all over, including the primary.
West Virginia Notes: Sen. Kennedy has an organization here which is expensive and thoroughly built from the grass roots. If West Virginians have never seen anything like it, they are not necessarily inexperienced.
A sample will do. Before the primary on May 10 every family listed in the telephone books of the major cities and towns will receive a personal call and an offer of transportation to the polls.
A few paragraphs from the instruction sheet sent to workers who will do the telephoning illustrates the grass roots depth of this one aspect of the organizational plan. There are 12 numbered instructions. Seven of them will suffice to give the picture:
1. You have been assigned to call a certain page (or pages) in your local telephone directory. Call only residence phones; do not make calls to business establishments. When you have completed a call, place a check next to the name. If you cannot reach a person on the first call, please call back until you are successful in making contact.
2. REMEMBER - when you are calling for Sen. Kennedy, you represent Sen. Kennedy to the person you call. Be polite and courteous. If someone asks you a question about Sen. Kennedy that you cannot answer, please take down the name and number of the person and tell him that someone at headquarters who is more familiar with Sen. Kennedy's record will call back with the answer. Be sure to notify headquarters and give them the necessary information.
3. If anyone you call is rude or discourteous terminate the conversation as quickly as you politely can.
4. If a child answers, ask for his parents or some older person. If someone is hard of hearing, or for some other reason cannot understand your message, terminate the conversation politely but quickly.
5. Do not call between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. because this is the time most people have dinner. Do not call before 9 a.m. or after 10 p.m.
6. Please make a note to any replies that are unusual for information of the state committee.
7. Take the names and addresses of persons requesting transportation to the polls and turn this information in to Kennedy headquarters.
"THE MESSAGE" is spelled out, even to the pauses:
"This is Kennedy for President Headquarters calling. As you may know, Sen. Kennedy is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President in our West Virginia primary on Tuesday, May 10. Is there any information you would like about Sen. Kennedy?"... (pause)..."Can we provide you with transportation to the polls on May 10 while you vote for Sen. Kennedy for President?"
Callers are instructed to have pad and pencil handy for making notes and taking down addresses of those desiring a ride. West Virginia is not a large state. But the telephones are counted into the thousands. The attempt to reach each adult with a telephone is familiar technique. But it is something new in a preferential primary which does not bind the delegates.
West Virginia is busy with a heated state campaign. A substantial number of the voters and party leaders wish neither of the senators had entered. The presidential noise distracts from their own more meaningful local campaign. Also, the discussions have pictured West Virginia as a state of religious prejudice which it isn't. It is, in fact, a state of little pretense and much honest democratic spirit. Its state politics is intense since there is a vigorous two-party system.
"I wish," said a gentleman in a gubernatorial candidate's headquarters, "that Jack had climbed a beanstalk instead of coming here and that Hubert had called it off after Wisconsin. This primary is really a sideshow insofar as we are concerned."
Organization is a potent force. Sen. Kennedy, who seeks nomination for a band wagon will do well, if he doesn't win. But the odds are that Hubert Humphrey will edge him out.
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